A 30-Day Challenge for the StarTribune

I like coming up with 30-day challenges. Here’s one for the StarTribune to consider:

For 30 days, don’t run any promotional stories.

No trend pieces based on press releases.

No movie reviews.

No reports about TV shows.

No restaurant reviews.

No profiles of local businesses or business executives.

No gardening pieces featuring featuring the latest in shovel technology.

No travel pieces.

No fitness trends.

No “medical breakthrough” pieces.

No car reviews.

Don’t produce a single inch of content that’s based on press releases unless the press release was published in reaction to original reporting. For example, covering an official statement from the MPD in reaction to a piece uncovering wrongdoing would be appropriate.

Additionally, during the same 30-days, set auto-responders to every startribune.com email account to filter for the term, “for immediate release” and bounce back an auto-responder with an advertising rate sheet.

Perhaps, after 30 days, the paper move a bit toward a culture of getting out of the office to find local stories rather than transcribing them from press releases. And, they may pick up a few advertisers who’ve been able to rely on free coverage through effective PR rather than advertising.

This isn’t to say that ALL of the StarTribune’s reporting is press release regurgitation to the detriment of readers and ad dollars, but the paper does have the soft pallid feel of cubicle created content. 30 days of concerted effort to return to reporting could be an interesting experiment in value creation.

9 thoughts on “A 30-Day Challenge for the StarTribune”

  1. @Rich G., would it? I suppose that comes down to why people subscribe to the paper today. If it’s for original reporting, they’d likely see more of that over the 30 days. If it’s for local trend pieces, maybe they’d switch to getting their fix from Metro, MSP, and other local mags.

    If businesses were interested in reaching StarTribune readers but no longer had the option to pimp press releases, wouldn’t they consider throwing some coin into advertising?

  2. As someone who has sent out press releases, I don’t think getting ideas from a press release is bad. Not everyone’s press releases are purely selfish in nature.

    As someone who has been on the opposite side of an argument from someone else who has submitted a press release, I think the notion that a newspaper would print copy from a release without doing any background research is frustrating.

    As someone whose comments to the media have been lined up next to the comments of his opposition represented as two sides to a 50/50 issue which really polls 80/20 (i.e. smoking bans, cigarette taxes, etc.) it can be downright infuriating.

    The Freedom of the Press was envisioned as an opportunity to provide a check and balance to promotional stories, unfortunatly, that requires a media and an audience that look for balanced information. The former doesn’t have the resources to field reporters to do much investigative journalism and the later are too busy plugging in to Fox News or MSNBC to get 24 hours of right/left wing talking points.

  3. @Matt, the 50/50 balance at all costs issue makes much of what traditional media considers print-worthy unreadable. It would be awesome to see someone create a PR BS of the Day newscast that mocked the most ridiculous story a committee considered newsworthy every day.

  4. Sounds like Keith Olberman’s “Worst Person of the Day” (Top 3 worst right wing soundbites) applied to local media stories. Maybe you could create a nominations process to make it scalable and enable web voting to make the ratings system simple?

  5. How nice it would be if it was just that simple. The combination of layoffs and buyouts, and now staff using as much of their vacation time as possible to avoid losing it per future agreements or circumstances surrounding their emergence from bankruptcy, has resulted in simply not having the staff to do the work.

  6. @greg, I wouldn’t argue that they’re not busy. Just that they’re busy creatin content businesses would be will to spend money advertising if the strib wasn’t running sections made up of press releases.

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