Prior to joining Androvett, Mark Annick spent more than 20 years in print, radio and television journalism, working as a reporter and anchor for television stations in Dallas as well as Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. As Androvett’s Vice President of News and Public Relations, he regularly works with reporters, editors and producers who call on us for help in finding the right legal experts for their stories.
How have attorneys’ perceptions of reporters changed over the years; or have they?
Those perceptions haven’t changed all that much, honestly. What was true 20 years ago is still true today for the most part. If an attorney takes the time to develop a relationship with a reporter, then he or she will gain a better understanding and appreciation of what it takes to assemble a story and be part of the coverage. Conversely, if an attorney never interacts with reporters, then he or she likely will not understand how stories get written or why and how those stories take on a particular perspective.
What changes have you seen in the way the news media cover legal stories?
In the old days – way back when people still used the telephone as the primary means of communication – reporters discovered newsworthy court cases by going to the courthouse and looking through the paper record. That meant they had to have relationships with the various courts and court coordinators, which meant spending a lot of time at the courthouse in order to build those relationships so someone would give them a heads up when a story was happening. Some reporters still do that, but we now have electronic tools – either through the courthouses themselves or other electronic reporting services – that allow reporters to monitor case filings and developments without ever stepping inside the courthouse.
It’s also worth noting that today’s reporters are pulled in many different directions simultaneously. Not only are they covering a story for print or broadcast, they’re also posting on Twitter, writing blog summaries and maybe even taking pictures (even if they’re working in radio) for posts on Facebook and other social sites. If you’re pitching a story to a reporter amid those kinds of distractions, then you need to know what you want to say and present it in the most focused fashion possible. That means asking yourself all of the reporter’s likely questions before you ever do the interview and making certain you like the answers you develop.
But in the face of those shifts, are there still fundamental things that show how reporters work or what they need?
No matter the technology, reporters still want and need good stories they can share with their audience. And they still want to get these stories before their competition. Reporters are always in need of someone who can answer the first-level questions such as, “What is this about?” or “What does it mean?” The media will beat a path to your door if you’re the one who can take an obscure legal concept and turn it into something that they and their audience can truly understand and – and this is a big and – who can be responsive and sensitive to deadlines (regularly answer calls, texts, emails, etc.).
How is technology changing the way media cover the news in general, and how should lawyers and firms adapt?
Once upon a time, when a reporter called looking for a lawyer to comment for a story, we had what we called the “Golden Hour,” which represented the 60-minute window for getting back to the reporter or risk being left out of the coverage. Today, the “Golden Hour” sometimes is only 5 minutes long. So speed, which always was of the essence, is even more important today. But the biggest change is that technology – especially live coverage, streaming and social media forums – has created a dynamic where everything is now happening in real time, all the time. That means there’s precious little time to prepare in the moment. The best approach is to identify issues in advance, and do your thinking and planning well ahead of time. Planning and preparation were always good ideas; they’re even more important, and more beneficial, in the modern environment.