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How-To Guide

Understanding the Press

The press can be your ally and your foe. They can help you promote your state project, generate public and private support, and rally community opinion behind you. Or, they can be overly critical of your efforts and make it challenging to generate public support. The press communicates via print (including newspapers and magazines) and broadcasting (including television, cable, and radio); it's referred to collectively as the media. The most important thing to remember about the media is that each news organization has its own style and ideas on what to report. The folks charged with the responsibility of maintaining this editorial focus are called editors. It's the editor's job to monitor and control the content and subject matter of all the stories. In smaller organizations, one person may split the task of editor and reporter. Larger ones can afford a full staff complete with a flurry of titles, subtitles, and more. You can get a sense of where a journalist is on the organizational ladder by paying attention to his or her title. Here are some generalized descriptions for titles you may come across that deal specifically with print.

  • The publisher is the financial and organizational center. Usually he or she has no direct newsroom responsibility; however, publishers can be terrific allies once you establish a good relationship.
  • The title editor-in-chief or simply editor connotes a person in charge of all aspects of reporting the news. He or she usually oversees newsroom operations and editorial schedules.
  • The title senior editor or editor may indicate the manager of a section, like the Lifestyles and Business sections of your local newspaper.
  • An associate editor is often a reporter assigned to cover certain topics or events. If a publication does not use senior editors, then the associate editor may be the person entrusted with senior editor-like tasks.
  • The gofer of the newsroom is the assistant editor, who reports directly to his or her senior editor, editor, or editor-in-chief. Assistant editors may help others sort through all the press releases and flag those that meet certain criteria.

In broadcasting, some titles stay the same, but others change. Here are some generalized descriptions for individuals who work in broadcast media.

  • A producer is like an editor-in-chief and may also have the responsibilities of a publisher.
  • The assignment editor, especially in television, is likely your key contact. The assignment editor has control over the flow of all information and assignments. If you are holding a timed event, you may contact the assignment editor as little as hours before your event and, if you can get him or her interested enough, the assignment editor may send out a crew.
  • Associate producer and associate editor are titles used liberally to describe a person who helps the producer or assignment editor. Sometimes this person is a specialist in a particular topic (such as education or technology). This is a good person to contact for general coverage of your organization