We caught up with the Huddersfield Examiner’s print content editor, Martin Shaw, to discuss what life as a journalist is really like, and how PR professionals can best support him and other journalists.
Can you tell us a little about your current position?
I was promoted from news editor to print content editor at the Examiner last July, after being with the company since 2012. If I am honest, my current role does what it says on the tin really. I’m responsible for the news, and local features content for the Examiner’s print edition.
I also write, and edit the Examiner’s weekly business supplement, Kirklees Business News, which is published in the paper every Thursday. Plus, I’m responsible for writing and sourcing a nostalgia feature every week, editing the letters page and even the regular restaurant reviews. It definitely keeps me out of mischief.
How would you describe a typical day at work for you?
A typical day for a journalist can be anything, and that’s why I’ve always loved the job. It’s the sheer variety of what you could be doing. And you never know what tomorrow will bring. I suppose there is no typical day for a journalist but, having said that, the higher you climb up the greasy pole the less variety you have in your day.
What are your biggest challenges/pet hates in your current role?
Is my boss likely to read this? There’s lots of challenges in modern-day newspapers. The industry has changed massively and is still changing. The move from print to digital has been somewhat of a transition. People’s lifestyles have changed, and they want to read their news in a different way – on their phones and less so in a newspaper. Old, traditional newspapers have had to become multi-media companies. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the process and newspapers now can’t do what they have traditionally done. Having said that the job of a journalist is still all about telling great stories. We just have to tell them in a different way.
If you could pinpoint the highlight of your career, what would it be?
I started out as a cub reporter at the age of 18 so I’ve been a journalist for over 30 years now (do the maths!) I started with a large newspaper group and I’m back with a large newspaper group but in between I freelanced and also ran my own newspaper, The Press in Dewsbury.
Running my own newspaper was always a dream and I lived the dream. It was an absolute white-knuckle rollercoaster ride, but it was certainly the highlight of my career, and I wouldn’t change a thing (OK, maybe one or two things but I’ll save that for my book…)
What important factors would you say have contributed to your success?
Determination, tenacity, a high pain threshold and a will to succeed, along with a dollop of talent and a bit of luck. I always say that in journalism you create your own luck. Do the job right and professionally and cover all the bases and you tend to get “lucky.” But then that’s not really “luck” is it?
What tips for success would you give to someone following your career path?
Be absolutely sure journalism is for you. There’s still a glamorous view of what journalism is and there’s not much glamour about it. It never was well paid, and it still isn’t! Make sure you’re doing it for the love, not the money – and do your research.
Is there anything you would have done differently in your career?
I refer you to my answer to No4. That’ll go in my book. If I ever get around to writing it!
If you could travel back in time to a famous historic moment, which one would you choose?
I’d jump on board the Tardis and pop back to Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947. The truth is out there.
What does your social media biog say?
It’s a bit dull, I’m afraid. On Twitter it says: “Print Content Editor at the Huddersfield Daily Examiner and Examiner Live. Reported on Huddersfield Town since 1995. Views my own.” Yes, I’m also a football reporter and you’ll find me in the press box at every Town home game.
How do you view the relationship between a PR and a journalist?
We both need each other. Journalists want stories and PRs want publicity for their clients. If we can meet in the middle and both get what we want, then great. What I’ve found in the six months I’ve been a business journalist is that there’s some good PRs and some, erm, not so good PRs. I’ll save the details for my book, but to tease you a little, I did write a pantomime following a terrible PR encounter.
What advice would you give to PRs when dealing with the media?
Remember your target audience. Don’t send the same dry, impenetrable business-to-business press release to your local newspaper. And please don’t be high maintenance and pester with emails and endless follow-up phone calls. And don’t bother asking for a PDF of a story when it’s published. Buy a paper – or six! Don’t get me going…
And everyone’s biggest question – would you prefer to be contacted via email, phone or social media?
See No11! But seriously, email is best please to firstname.lastname@example.org. But bear in mind I get loads and I may not respond for a few days. Apologies in advance.30th January 2019