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.