When I talk to media relations representatives at utilities, I often hear how difficult their jobs have become. Newspapers have closed. Dailies have become twice-weeklies. The news hole is shrinking. Veteran reporters who used to cover the utility have taken a package. If those veterans are replaced (and their positions are not always back-filled), it typically is with a shiny new journalism-school graduate who covers cops (on Mondays), schools (on Tuesdays) and business — in whatever flavor — on Thursdays. The loss of institutional memory has made it harder to place favorable stories about the utility in any media outlet.
For media relations practitioners, the print media outlook certainly is grim. There are fewer and fewer opportunities to place a story, especially if it requires more than five column-inches and does not include a photo of linemen rescuing kittens from power poles.
And yes, the outlook is even grimmer in the broadcast media, with their breathless coverage of car accidents, severe weather, high-school sports and miraculous recoveries from tragic illnesses. “If it bleeds, it leads” has been the mantra for TV news for the 30 years I have been in the utility communications game. That, too, shows no sign of changing any time soon.