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Long Live the MSM!


The conventional wisdom of the digital age long ago declared that nobody really pays attention anymore to the mainstream media…that mainstream media had become irrelevant…that the MSM was dead!

But as the great Mark Twain said after a newspaper erroneously reported that he had died while touring Europe: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

The Washington Post and The New York Times, in particular, have broken story after story after amazing story about the unprecedented historic events, the serious threats to democracy, and the downright bewildering weirdness of American politics and government in 2017.

I will here confess my bias: I spent 33 rewarding years as a reporter, magazine writer, and editor at The Post, retiring as Assistant Managing Editor in 2013 at a time when it seemed that conventional journalism was on life support. I sadly helped preside over an unprecedented shrinkage in The Post newsroom from roughly 800 people to less than 600, drastically diminishing our ambitions and abilities.

But America has once again become a news-hungry nation, and the MSM—at least the leading news outlets—have risen to the occasion by producing what my onetime boss, Bob Woodward, called “Holy Sh-t!” stories. I was proud to have written and edited some of those amazing stories over the years, and I am greatly encouraged to see The Post regain its greatness in the field and adopt a new motto: Democracy Dies in Darkness. There’s a message here for communications professionals:

If you have a story worth telling, don’t give up on working with the MSM.

  • Learn how to improve your technique in trying to pitch stories there,
  • Closely observe which reporters and editors are involved in your primary subject areas,
  • And take note of how they operate.

Modern-day journalists are inundated with information and totally overloaded with demands to instantly turn complex stories into 140-word shorthand summaries. Usually, they just don’t have time for your stories or your op-eds. So you need to constantly sharpen your thinking about what is really new and potentially interesting to mainstream readers, and how to craft your approach.

Today’s top journalists do not want or need to be spoon-fed. They are energetic and aggressive, and they need only to become intrigued by new ideas or new data to propel them to produce eye-opening stories.

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