– by Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/DC
I recently met with Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor for the Local section of The Washington Post, to talk about newsgathering trends and press release distribution. Emilio has extensive knowledge of these topics, with more than 25 years of experience in the newspaper industry and a journalism degree from the University of Maryland.
Prior to being named the Local Editor last year, Emilio served as Sports Editor of The Washington Post and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where he directed an investigative series that uncovered academic fraud at the University of Minnesota and won reporter George Dohrmann the 2000 Pulitzer for beat reporting. In addition, Emilio has worked for other top 100 dailies including the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times.
When asked about social media in relation to news gathering, Emilio said that the Post is using these tools to look for crowdsourcing ideas. He mentioned Twitter being especially helpful for content during the big snowstorms in Washington this past winter. Social networking tools have enabled journalists to engage in conversation with their readers. They also allow reporters to follow organizations they cover for breaking news and announcements. Although social media has become a major part of the newsgathering process, press releases still play a role. The issue, however, is how to make your release stand out.
During our meeting, which lasted about an hour and a half, Emilio received 10 press releases via e-mail – all of which were irrelevant to the Local section. “If you’re going to send someone a press release, make sure you have the right contact, because if not they’re just going to delete it. The best press releases are hyper-targeted to what we do.”
With the number of public relations practitioners outweighing the number of reporters, it’s more important than ever to think like a journalist when writing your release. According to Emilio, “Many of the problems could be alleviated with some basic newspaper fundamentals. Including who, what, where, when, how in the first paragraph. That would be nice. Get to your point quickly instead of writing in a convoluted way. Just like a story, if a press release doesn’t work at the top, then you’re not going to continue reading.”
Above all, practitioners should remember that public relations is about relationships. “The best chance to get to me is with a relationship,” Emilio added. “My time is limited and when your time is limited, you deal with the people you know.”