The round-the-clock demands of the mainstream media, allied to an increasing number of 'citizen journalists', is seeing one of Scotland's biggest local authorities radically rethink how it operates its media relations.
Says Stewart Argo – media manager at The City of Edinburgh Council but speaking and writing in a personal capacity: “The news release, news conference and picture or interview opportunity just don’t cut it anymore.”
It is partly because “spotting a journalist is getting harder than it used to be”, continues Argo. “Indeed, how would you define a journalist? What about the blogger, the grassroots stringer, the ex-hack who’s turned to PR but does a bit of freelancing on the side, the community news site editor, the student reporter – it’s no longer necessary to have an official title and an NUJ membership card to be credible or valuable. And what’s their priority in relation to other journalists?”
But one recent lesson looks set to become more common practice.
During the severe snows during the winter, the council's use of Twitter in keeping the general public informed, regarding the likes of school closures and transport difficulties, doubled up as a means of staying in touch with the mainstream media.
“When we provided information principally for the public, we used it to our advantage in dealing with the media too.
“It’s one example of how our conscious focus is increasingly on providing good content online for all different types of audience, including the media, and not packaging the information specifically for them. We did that during the snow and we know journalists were, for example, following our Twitter feed closely and using the material without us putting it to them directly.”