Last week, I attended a broadcast media luncheon with Arizona’s Family, put on by PRSA Phoenix. Attendees had the chance to hear from a diverse panel of the Arizona’s Family team about how they remain unbiased in their reporting and their opinions of the perfect pitch. Panelists included Jennifer Jones, senior content coordinator; Sean McLaughlin, news anchor for CBS 5; and Jessica Parsons, segment producer for Good Morning Arizona.
The panelists jumped right into the discussion, addressing the era of “fake news” and how it impacts them as journalists. Sean noted that the topic has gotten better, but people picking up on false information via social media only perpetuates lies. He thinks the key to staying factual comes from being slower, more deliberate and maintaining credibility through calmness and consistency. Jessica agreed, saying that anyone with a smart phone can be a journalist and that kind of content contributes to fake news. Jennifer also noted an important factor to keep in mind: just because you don’t like the news you are hearing doesn’t mean it’s not true.
When it comes to remaining unbiased in their news coverage, Sean noted that the Arizona’s Family team is diverse and helps him pick up on any biases he might not even notice he had. They all work together to make sure they are portraying news equally, even giving opposing political candidates equal screen time when reporting on debates– down to the second. Jennifer and Jessica agreed and also noted that it comes down to being professional and making sure to represent both sides in every story.
When asked about the ever-evolving world of social media and podcasts, and how broadcast can stay relevant, Jessica said people consume media in their own ways and there are multiple groups to target. She added there is a place for every form of news, but they are all competing for the main space. Sean noted that social media impacts him differently as an anchor; he has to make sure he’s taking advantage of his platform and always connecting with the public. Jennifer agreed, saying that the team is always looking for an opportunity to take advantage of what is out there.
Addressing the differences between 3TV and CBS 5, Sean noted that 3TV targets a younger crowd while CBS 5 has an older, more educated audience. For either station, he noted that PR pros should get ahead of the news and find out how it impacts their clients, pitching those stories. Jennifer added that both channels target human interest stories, finding ways to push them on each station. If she is pitched a great story during the day, she will make sure to pass it on to the next team before she leaves, if she is not able to get to it. Jessica also noted that Good Morning Arizona targets moms with kids at home. They make sure their content is relevant, timely, visual and about kids, health or events.
In terms of the perfect pitch, the team agreed they want all the details as quickly as possible. Jessica is always looking for experts in a fascinating field and wants pitches with the Five Ws, really selling the angle and visuals. Good Morning Arizona will also be extending its hours to end at 11 a.m., adding another hour to the show. Sean gravitates toward an intriguing subject line and a story that highlights families in Arizona. He always recommends including photos and visuals, helping Arizona’s Family find ways to make it available for multiple platforms. Jennifer appreciates stories that are exclusive to Arizona’s Family and quick responses from the PR pro while getting additional details for her.
The panel concluded by noting that Good Morning Arizona likes receiving b-roll and videos that are 30 to 45 seconds long and appreciates as many photos as possible. In terms of how long to wait after pitching an exclusive and not hearing back, the team says being honest and letting them know you are waiting for a reply before pitching elsewhere is helpful. In addition, content does not need to be exclusive to be considered. To get in touch with the team, Sean prefers being contacted via email or Twitter, Jessica prefers emails that are followed up with calls or texts, and Jennifer prefers emails that are followed up with emails. You can also reach Jennifer through a call to the assignment desk.