In My Opinion: Derek Masterton: Let’s resolve to help each other

AS we sit, surrounded by the debris of our already broken New Year resolutions, the one thing we can be sure of is that the next 12 months will be challenging.

And that’s good. It keeps us on our toes and makes us more creative.

The Press (and, by extension, its readers) will eventually face the regulatory consequences of Leveson and, of course, the desperate battle to halt circulation decline will continue.

There’s not much now that the ordinary hack or hackette can do about the former but they can do plenty to meet the circulation challenge. And so can people like me: charity media relations officers and PRs.

Journalists need the stories. We need the exposure. So let’s resolve to help each other out. I’m up for it.

Most journalists will tell you the hardest part of writing any story is getting the introduction right.

With a charity press release, the hardest bit is getting it read.

I spent many years on a busy daily paper newsdesk, so I know all about the constant barrage of press releases and follow-up phone calls from PRs desperate to secure coverage for their client or the organisation they work for.

And yes, it can be a right pain in the neck, having to deal with them when you’re under the cosh. But if journalists don’t take the time to read releases, they risk missing some cracking tales.

On the other hand, those of us writing press releases need to make sure that what we’re sending out really does deserve to be read and – hopefully – published. Otherwise, neither we nor our messages can have any credibility. Lost credibility ensures a rapid trip to the newsdesk’s electronic bin. And that’s a difficult situation to recover from.

I work for the British Red Cross, part of the world’s biggest humanitarian organisation. We have around 6,000 volunteers in Scotland – ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things every day of the year. They are of all ages and come from all walks of life. They help hundreds of thousands of people every year. Right here in Scotland.

But I can’t expect acres of coverage, just because what the organisation does is worthy. It also needs to be newsworthy.

In a world as cynical as that of the media, charities – the ‘Third Sector’ as they’re formally known – can struggle to be heard. Yet they are vast reservoirs of human interest stories.

So, back to that resolution I suggested. How’s about it? You need the stories, we’re happy to supply them.

Instead of automatically reaching for the delete key, give us an extra few seconds and read on. You never know what you might find of interest – to you and your readers.

Oh, and by the way – Happy New Year!

Derek Masterton is the media relations officer for the British Red Cross in Scotland. He is a former assistant news editor with the Daily Record, where he was a news journalist for 30 years. He is writing in a personal capacity.