I recently attended an event hosted by Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs in New York City. The topic of the day was “Media Coverage of the Non Profit Sector.” Non profit staff and media professionals came together to discuss what such coverage consists of and how non profits can utilize media outlets better to share their missions with the general public. The main takeaways of the discourse were as follows:
1.) The media is not covering the non profit field in any substantial way. Hardly any of the newspapers devote print to the sector. Part of this to be fair, is due to financial cutbacks felt by print outlets. Also there exists a stigma that non profit issues do not sell newspapers. Could this be true with non profits providing support for the Arts, education, health, and infinite other social services? I cannot imagine that there are not any human interest stories to be found here. Perhaps the larger problem is that non profits are not properly understood by those making editorial decisions. Although there are few of them, we should embrace the journalists who are already covering the sector in spite of restrictions.
Could it be that non profits need a refresher course in how to “pitch” themselves and their causes (missions) to media organizations? I would say that non profits should continue to focus on the essential and necessary work that they do. One does amazing things and they are noticed. Better yet non profits should reach out to their stakeholders and see if they know anyone in the media fields. Non profits know how to hustle to get by and it’s this same mindset that can help convince media sources to cover them.
2.) Media companies are not interested in non profits unless they are embroiled in some sort of scandal or hosting a fancy gala attended by celebrities and socialites. People do not want to read about the poor or the struggling. They would rather see who is in rehab or who is wearing what where. There may be some truth to this and this does not make us bad people. These types of stories offer an escape from the difficulties of our own lives. That said most people still appreciate stories of those who were able to succeed after struggling. We root for the underdog. I suggest sharing these types of stories of how an organization helped an individual or a family succeed, get back on their feet, and flourish. Show us in a tangible way how we can help you help others. This is something we can all feel good about.
3.) The coverage of non profits is severely lacking and continues to dwindle. This is troubling but also creates a possible opportunity for aspiring journalists to come forward and cover the news of non profits. Something is lacking that needs to be addressed. This is how problems are solved. Non profits are looking for outlets to help them spread their missions with the public. Why can’t that be you or I? In an age of such technological innovation there is no reason why this coverage cannot come from local newspapers, blogs, message boards, and other forms of social media. This is how innovation occurs. Especially in difficult times. Make a name for yourself and let us talk about things that really matter.