SG: The Ice Age of media relations

Over at musicscribe blog the other day, David Bruce Murray offered a solid case-study critique of poor media relations in sg, using mishandled press releases as his example. One of the conclusions he comes to in passing is that the problem is rooted in general laziness and unprofessionalism - not willful dereliction but a lack of knowledge and/or discipline to put the extra work it takes into rewriting press releases and more broadly viewing them as places to start instead of ready-made “news” in a prepackaged bundle. DBM’s analysis is spot on. And this lack of professionalism endemic to sg news outlets and media relations that DBM seizes on is part of a broader culture I tend to think of the as the “make a joyful noise” mentality: “we’re all just makin’ a joyful noise for the lord and not trying to get or give coverage like they would over there at the New York Times or something” … etc. Though I’m the first to level blistering critiques at this kind of thinking, the “make a joyful noise” mentality raises an interesting question that’s worth considering: should sg news coverage and media relations even aspire to higher (some might simply prefer “different”) standards to begin with? I think yes, though perhaps not to the extent that the Times or even the local daily newspaper in Louisville, KY, or somesuch place might go. How far, though, is fair to ask. Far enough, it seems to me, to uproot and dislodge the unhealthy cronyism and selective honesty that people rely on and get away with in so much of what is said (or more often not said, at least on the record) and done in sg. Almost no one in sg today seems to know any other way to talk publicly about controversial, sensitive or even slightly unpleasant issues than in tones of Pollyanna happy-facing and faux-effusive whitewash. It really is that bad. Alongside this phenomenon is the equally true reality that you can’t go from this Ice Age of media relations in sg to the New York Times (or even the Louisville Courier-Journal) in a day or week or a year. You have to get there in baby steps, so to speak, in incremental phases. That’s where I think sites blogs like DBM’s and this one and the sogospelluvers and AMGS are important. I can’t speak for these other places, but on my site I use methods and approaches to write about, and in a few places report on, sg that attempt to move the discourse about sg - however incrementally - toward better days. Which is why you’ll see me use blind quotes or anonymous sources now and then from industry figures who feed me information or news. If I had my druthers, I wouldn’t have to use blind quotes. But if I were having my druthers in the first place, the SN and sogospelnews and the U.S. Gospel News and The Scoop would also be doing their jobs and not leaving the grunt work of old-fashioned honest reporting about important, sensitive or otherwise unpleasant issues to some part-time no-name like me with a dinky website in the middle of cyberspace. It’s one sign of how backward and underdeveloped media relations are in sg when officials, group owners, and other people of prominence or newsworthiness in sg aren’t willing (or, in some cases, because no one bothers to ask, they’re not even able) to speak on the record about the issues and topics that dominate the sg conversation. Maybe they would be more willing and able if official news outlets (or the publications that posture as “news” sources) would step up and start doing real reporting on a regular basis about more than just the childbirths and songs released to radio and the award winners and the new contracts inked with this or that agency. And if these outlets don’t know how do this kind of reporting, they need to invest their time and money to figure out. Anything less is an abdication of the responsibility each publication willingly took on for itself when it asked readers and subscribers to give their attention and money. So in a more perfect world, I would much rather not use anonymous sourcing. But we’re not anywhere near that more perfect work (yet), so if I have a choice between getting the truth out there or saying nothing at all, I’m going to go for the truth every time. And I’m hopeful that things are progressing, even if very, very slowly. Claude Hopper’s showstopping speech at NQC was a good sign. As was Gerald Wolfe’s willingness (I might even say eagerness) to speak on the record to me about the vitally important issue of the NQC’s future. And when was the last time you remember reading about prominent sg figures saying anything half as candid as Wolfe did? You might even call this a milestone. I certainly would.

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