Posts Tagged ‘newspapers’

The Art of the Headline

February 2, 2016 by Kay Paumier

headlinesWe are all bombarded with more material than we can possibly read. So what makes us notice some articles and bypass so many others?

Often it’s the headline. Here are some ways to write effective feature headlines. I’ve included some examples, with the occasional explanatory note.


Use a homonym (a word that sounds the same as another word but has a different spelling and meaning) to encourage your reader to pause and make the “mental connection.” Here are some examples:

  • “A Choreographer Raises the Barre,” The Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2015.
    A description about how a choreographer remodeled a rundown home in the English countryside.
  • “Rey of Hope: Female Toys Near,” San Jose Mercury News, January 13, 2016.
    A discussion about how companies will be bringing out more toys featuring Rey, the heroine of “Star Wars: the Force Awakens.”
  • “For TV Stations, 2016 Ads Are Adds,” The Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2016.
    An explanation of how spending on campaign ads is helping the bottom line at TV stations.

A Play on Words

Use common phrases to summarize your story. For example:

  • “This Precious Metal Needs a Silver Bullet,” The Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2015.
    An analysis of why the price of silver was going down.
  • “A View with a House,” The Wall Street Journal, November 28-29, 2015.
    A description of a house that was designed to capitalize on the vistas of the Arizona desert.
  • “Is Bolt Losing His Thunder?” The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2015.
    A discussion about whether Usain Bolt’s “iron grip on the title of world’s fastest man appears to be weakening.”
  • “Cut Above the Rest,” San Jose Mercury News, September 7, 2015.
    Description of a makeshift barbershop for the San Jose State football team.
  • “Lululemon Stock? It’s a Stretch,” The Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2015
    An analysis of the financial prospects of Lululemon, a leader in sales of stretch “athleisure” outfits.
  • “A Scathing ‘JOBS’ Report,” San Jose Mercury News, September 4, 2015.
    A negative review of the movie “Steve Jobs.”
  • “Chickens Come Home to Roost,” Money Magazine, February 2016.
    An editorial about the financial and emotional impact of raising kids and chickens.

Industry Association

Use words or phrases associated with particular industries or businesses to grab attention. Here are some examples:

  • “With 27,205 Stores, Subway Gets Indigestion,” The Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2015.
  • “Big-Rig Buyers Slam on the Brakes,” The Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2016.
  • “Campbell Searches for Success Recipe,” The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2015.
  • “Nordstrom Tries to Keep in Style,” The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2015.
  • “Coffee Disconnect Is Brewing,” The Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2015.
    A discussion about how “rising demand for specialty brands has more roasters leaving futures exchanges.”


If possible, rhyme with a familiar phrase to grab the readers’ attention.

  • “Chip Ahoy!” San Jose Mercury News, January 15, 2016.
    A news feature about how Chip Kelly was hired as the San Francisco 45ers head coach.

What about you? What headlines get your attention? And how did they do that?

What Do Journalists Want?

December 9, 2014 by Kay Paumier


Why is it so hard to connect with journalists? Why don’t they respond? Why don’t they “buy” my pitch?

In short, what do they want anyway?

Many PR pros have asked themselves these and similar questions for years. In many ways, it’s easier than ever to get to know journalists, because their work is generally available online. At the same time, it can be harder than ever to connect with journalists, because their schedules are so demanding and they are overwhelmed with pitches and other material.

Fortunately, the Lawrence Ragan Communications report “What Journalists Want” describes many of the steps needed to develop good relationships with journalists. Here are some of their key points.

Engage with journalists on social media.

Follow them on Twitter. Retweet their tweets, but “don’t just click the retweet button. Instead, quote them in a tweet of your own, and include ‘RT’ or ‘MT’ and their @ handle. Tell your followers why the tweet matters, or even just add ‘Yes!’ or ‘I agree.’”

Target the right reporter.

Journalists have complained about inappropriate pitches from time immemorial. And today there really is no excuse to pitch the “wrong” reporter. Between online and social media, you should be able to confirm that you are approaching the right person.

Send appropriate email.

Most journalists (at least according to many surveys) prefer email to other forms of communication. But to get the reporter to read the message, you need a good subject line. Here are Ragan’s guidelines:

  • Be specific.
  • Use “you” when you can “connect the subject to a benefit.” (e.g., How your subject lines can make you famous.”)
  • Think SEO.
  • Explain “what’s in it for me?
  • Keep it short.

Make the body of the email “a short paragraph explaining what you’d like the reporter to cover.” In the process, answer these questions:

  •   Why should I care?
  •   Why now?
  •   How is this new?
  •   What can you offer? (Sources? Visuals? Video?)

The whole email should be about half a screen. And, in general, you should not follow up with a phone call.

The report has other great tips on press releases, online news rooms and media interviews, which I’ll discuss in subsequent posts. But I am only discussing a few highlights. I encourage you to read the report in its entirety.

Newspaper Bloopers

August 2, 2012 by Kay Paumier

One of my favorite books is  “The Revenge of Anguish English” by Richard Lederer. Here are some newspapers bloopers taken from that publication.

The state board of fisheries is considering whether to impose seasonal catch limits on tourists.

Queen Elizabeth arrived in Paris to begin a visit that inspired the warmest welcome the French have given a royal figure since they guillotined their own Queen Marie Antoinette.

Owing to the lack of space and the rush of editing this issue, several births and deaths will be postponed until next week.

The ladies of the county medical society auxiliary plan to publish a cookbook. Part of the money will go to the Samaritan Hospital to purchase a stomach pump.

Rolls-Royce announced today that is it is recalling all Rolls-Royce cars made after 1966 because of faulty nuts behind the steering wheels.

The local medical association made a presentation to the minister complaining of laboratory delays, especially the 10-month wait for a pregnancy test.

Who Can You Trust?

January 26, 2012 by Kay Paumier

Fully 75 percent of Americans think news organizations generally don’t get the facts right, according to Pew Research. Two-thirds (66 percent) say stories are often inaccurate–a new high–and almost 75 percent believe that journalists try to cover up their mistakes.

Julia Moos discusses these statistics in her article, “Pew: 75 percent of Americans Say Press Can’t Get Their Facts Straight”  (

“Taken together, the findings indicate negative opinions about media are higher than ever,” Moos says.

But even given those dismal percentages, most Americans trust traditional media more than other sources of news.

What does this mean? We believe only a quarter of what we read or hear? If so, why do we repeat (and retweet) so much of this “fiction”? Why do so many bits of news have a greater life on sites like Twitter and Facebook than on traditional media channels?

To venture a guess, I think lots of us feel it is less important to be accurate than to be interesting. Being “interesting” is important (perhaps essential) for many online “communications.”

But being “interesting” (by itself) does not an informed populace make.

Thoughts on the Murdock Saga

July 14, 2011 by Kay Paumier

Watching the Murdock saga unfold is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know something awful has happened. And you suspect it will get worse before it gets better.

In case you’ve been on another planet the last few days, here is a short summary. Media tycoon Rupert Murdock has closed down the “News of the World,” Britain’s most popular weekly tabloid, following allegations that reporters hacked the phone records not just of celebrities and royals, but of families of British soldiers killed overseas, among others.

There are even charges that, nine years ago, a private investigator working on behalf of the newspaper hacked into the cell phone of a missing teen and deleted voice mail messages, interfering with a police investigation.

And now there are allegations that Murdoch papers bribed police for information.

Who knows what else may come to light? Frankly, it’s hard to keep up.

Unfortunately, the whole sordid affair comes at a crucial time for journalism. One of the major arguments for professional journalists is that they subscribe to a code of ethics. For the most part, we expect that they will use legal and ethical methods to “get the story,” and then they will report that story as objectively and honestly as they can.

As a PR consultant, I have worked with probably hundreds of reporters. I believe the vast majority of them subscribe to that code of ethics. I’ve even had discussions over whether reporters could accept a free copy of a book (retail price about $18.99), when the book was connected to the story they were writing.

And then there are the reporters who go over the line. Hacking phone records is bad enough. Hacking phone records of victims or families of victims is, frankly, disgusting. And bribing police officials lifts this story out of the realm of tabloid fodder into the realm of courts and law and politics.

It is an interesting tale to watch. But I certainly hope it does not tarnish or otherwise diminish the good work done by hundreds of hard-working journalists (including “citizen journalists”) who truly do help uncover and report “the news of the world.”

Vocus “State of the Media 2010”: Newspapers

February 15, 2010 by Kay Paumier

Here is the second in my reports about the Vocus “State of the Media 2010” webinar ( and accompanying white paper (

Here are some highlights of their report about newspapers. I have already reported on magazines and will report on broadcast media in subsequent blog posts.

In 2009, 293 newspapers folded, nearly 100 of them in the first quarter alone. 14 were dailies, 230 were weeklies.

There were 421 layoffs in newsrooms of major newspapers.

At the same time, 45 new papers were launched, many of which are online or Web-first.

The majority of the new papers (29 of the total) are weeklies.

Being online only is definitely a trend. For example, the Christian Science Monitor is online except for one print edition a week.

Content sharing is growing. For example, the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram share some content.

The result, obviously, is less competition in content between the newspapers.  However, the newspapers are competing with bloggers and online news sites.

Unfortunately, the quality of journalism is suffering. “Once, three or four sources were required for a newspaper to go with a story. Now just one source is enough for a blogger to put it on the Web site and spur a heated debate.”

People have not reacted well to the notion of paying for content online. The exceptions are mainly niche publications, like The Wall Street Journal, which can be essential to people in that niche.

The good news is that there is a rise of nonprofit, investigative journalism, such as Propublica, Chicago News Co-op and the Bay Area News Project.

More articles on the media are available at

Where the News Comes From — And Why It Matters

January 22, 2010 by Kay Paumier

“When we imagine the news ecosystem in the 21st century, the newspaper is still the largest originating, gathering source.”

That’s the opinion of Tom Rosenstiel, Director of Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. He made these comments in an opening statement before the Joint Economic Committee hearing on “The Future of Newspapers: The Impact on the Economy and Democracy” last September.

Rosenstiel noted that newspapers have more “boots on the ground, more reporters and editors than anyone else, usually than all others combined. A good deal of what is carried on radio, television, cable and wire services comes from newspaper newsrooms. These media then disseminate it to broader audiences.”

He says that the crisis of newspapers does not stem from loss of audience. “Weekday print circulation last year fell by 4.6%, but the number of unique visitors to newspaper websites grew by 15.8% to 65 million. When you combine print and online audiences of newspapers, the industry overall is faring better than other legacy media-and many newspapers are seeing their audience grow.

“One study, by Scarborough, suggests audience gains of 8.4% from online readership. What’s more, the Internet offers the potential of a more compelling, more dynamic, more interactive journalism—a better journalism than print—coming from these newsrooms.”

Rosenstiel says (not surprisingly) that the crisis facing newspapers is a revenue problem. Reduced print ad revenue and lowered prices for online ads mean fewer reporters. “The consequence is that the amount of our civic life that occurs in the sunlight of observation by journalists is shrinking.”

And here’s when Rosenstiel becomes eloquent. “So should we care whether newspapers survive? Perhaps not. Typewriters have come and gone. But I believe we do have a stake as citizens in having reporters who are independent, who work full time, and who go out and gather news, not just talk about it, and who try to get the facts and the context right.

“And it’s not just the high-flying investigative reporters I have in mind, but perhaps even more so the reporters who simply show up week after week, sit in the front row, and bear witness, and who, simply by their presence, say to those in power on behalf of all the rest of us, you are being watched.”

You can read the entire article here:

More articles on the media are available at

Get e-mail updates

Enter your e-mail address: