You name the school. It doesn’t matter if it’s a nursery, grade school, high school or college. Some day, one day, something will happen. Some action at school may generate news coverage.
I don’t have to elaborate but a school in my hometown has recently been on CNN, in The New York Times and on other media outlets around the world.
Why does it seem that some schools get more bad publicity than others if things sometimes go astray at every school? There have been beatings, shootings, fights, rapes, financial
mismanagements, embezzlements, child molestations and various other sordid or criminal activities going on in schools nationwide but some schools stay in the news more than other institutions. Why?
Well, let’s see.
Perhaps it is because different schools have different media relations. More often than not, the very best journalists, the most experienced news men and women or the most articulate and creative spokespersons are not hired as school information officers.
Almost all of the veteran media experts that I know would love to be a school information officer because, believe it or not, the information officers at top schools in your state, city or community are some of the highest paid media workers in their towns.
The newspaper writers don’t get paid as much, the TV anchor persons don’t get as high a salary and your favorite local DJs don’t get nearly as much compensation as a school media relations person. I don’t know of a college public information officer who gets paid less than $100,000 a year; some make nearly $200,000.
Despite the huge responsibilities of pleading your school’s causes, improving your school’s relationship with the press and finding creative ways to get the truth out about your school, about the students and about activities and events that take place that involve the school, sometimes a school’s media jobs are reserved for someone special.
Would you believe that the schools that get the most negative publicity are the schools that have the poorest media relations?
OK, so you don’t but you tell me why is it that the same things that go on in some schools happen in most schools but only a few schools get dragged and dragged and dragged through the press.
One reason is some schools’ media people got their jobs for reasons other than their media savvy or news experience. The best way to get a media job at a school is to be a friend, or more than a friend, to the person that hires the information officials. It is not unusual to find an agency head's “jump off” serving as a media director. Many schools hire their graduates in top positions and never consider hiring a super-qualified outsider.
Some public information officers are hired because they have something to sit on, if you know what I mean.
Nobody wants to see their favorite school or any school beaten and battered by constant news attacks. But nobody, no agency heads, no governors, no trustees, no alumni and no one else is demanding that the most successful media experts assist schools in media relations. Jump-off journalism is fine with them.
Yes, some schools have very good relations with the media. Media directors meet with local and national journalists, they feed them, they even visit newsrooms and news desks in the communities where schools are located.
Media people get press passes to events, they get invited to do interviews with school scholars, researchers and guests and some schools take the time to build good relations with the news media.
Jump-off media directors only have good relations with the person who hired them.
More often than not, those people who buy ink by the barrel or broadcast with thousands of watts will treat schools the same way they are treated. If you act like you don’t like or care about your community journalists, those journalists won’t care about you.
Lucius Gantt is a consultant based in Tallahassee and author of the book Beast Too: Dead Man Writing.
He may be reached at allworldconsultants.net
Photo: Lucius Gantt