Editors’ Dilemma: Sifting Through the Noise in a Hyperlocal News World

Back in the pre-Internet days, my talks on working with the media had a standard prop. I would save press […]

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Back in the pre-Internet days, my talks on working with the media had a standard prop. I would save press releases for a week or two. I’d usually have enough paper to fill a paper grocery bag or two.

Then it was time to wait.

The question always came up: “What about sending press releases?” I would then dump a bag or two of press releases on the podium, with paper flying everywhere. I would follow that up by reading a select few.

I was editing a community newspaper in an economically and ethnically diverse neighborhood at the time. We were what you’d call hyperlocal in our coverage.

We covered a small part of St. Paul. We didn’t have a lot of use for press kits about the new motor vehicles rolling out of Detroit. We didn’t care about salsa made in New York City. We were not interested in scrolling through pages and pages of a university dean’s list unless we could see a student address.

My point then and now was editors get a lot of stuff. Much of it we cannot use due to space and content focus reasons.

I had a pleasant email exchange the other day with the owner of a chocolate shop from Atlanta. She’d gotten my email off of a site listing journalists. My freelance work does include a monthly blog post for an online food publication. But like Access Press that work is Minnesota-focused.

Atlanta is a wonderful city. We had an interesting and colorful great-aunt who lived there years ago. And I do like chocolate. But . . .

My journalist friends can no doubt chime in chapter and verse. We were mailed a lot of oddball stuff in the pre-Internet days. My college newsroom once received a plastic flying disc with a marijuana pipe in the middle. It was called a “buzzbee.” It disappeared not long after arriving. I frankly do not care to know where it went.

Another time and at another paper we got a box. I opened one end of the box and could not see anything inside except for a one-page press release. I reached inside and got a deep paper cut. Yes, it was my fault. But to use a box to sends me a tiny fake flower and a press release about what I’ll call “Daisy Estates” seemed ridiculous.

We would get what we jokingly called newsroom swag. The trouble is that in most newsrooms don’t accept gifts.

We certainly welcome disability-focused items for Minnesota at Access Press. No questions about a press release is a bad question.

We also can include regional items in our e-disability news and e-health news roundups.

But I find myself wading through more and more stuff. Some days I am Doctor No to a lot of people wanting free publicity for things and events not germane to our readership. Please understand that this is why editors get cranky. Keep the chocolate handy.

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