Each Monday, we’re giving readers a chance to get to know the media a little better.
With a little flair.
Our goal is to give readers some insight into the work and work style of area journalists, and get to know a little bit about the person behind the byline. Start your week off with an online networking opportunity through our Media Monday blog post.
Casey McNerthney has been working under the P-I globe since 2004. As part of the P-I’s breaking news team, he reported from the front lines for stories that initially appear online, helping make seattlepi.com one of the nation’s most-read newspaper web sites. He started at the P-I as a sports correspondent.
McNerthney was raised in Seattle, attended Western Washington University, and worked as a contributor for the Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader. He also spent a summer at KJR-AM and was host of the morning show on KUGS-FM in Bellingham.
A breaking news reporter since 2006, McNerthney uncovered the report of an alleged sexual assault at a Seattle high school that administrators didn’t pass on to police. That story led to an award-winning special report.
Q: What’s your favorite kind of story?
A: Any one that’s genuine. You can always find a creative way to tell an interesting story, even if you think you’re stuck with a boring topic – and that works for reporters and PR professionals. Just look for the people who are real, and think of the advice from 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt: Tell me a story and don’t bog it down with stats.
Q: If you could have someone else’s job, what would it be?
A: Steve Hartman at CBS News has such a cool job with his On the Road assignments, and he got it by being the best broadcast feature reporter around. If we’re talking long shots, it’d be a blast to be a Saturday Night Live cast member or get paid to be in a blockbuster movie. More realistically, I’d like any job where you get to take information and create something positive.
Q: Finish this sentence: “A good PR person is …”
A: Someone who can think creatively and adapt. Even if you’re stuck with pitching dull information, wait until you can present it in a way that even your “fair-weather” friends want to post about it on Facebook. An excellent editor once told me that sign of a good feature profile is that the reader feels like they want to get a beer with the subject when they’re done reading. The same general idea applies for a pitch.
The best pitch I’ve seen was in 2007 for a ceremony at Fort Lawton. The organizer pitched the same story to every news outlet in town, but personally called reporters and assignment editors giving each a specific angle. And when they wanted more information, he had everything ready: phone numbers, background info – whatever was needed. And the pitch was initially well received because it was genuine.
A good PR person can adapt to what the reporter wants, has everything you can think of ready before they call, does hours of research ahead of time, and is sincere.
Q: What skills do new journalists need?
A: Learn how to adapt. Carry a camera in your pocket at all times and learn how to use it well. Be accurate, quick and easy to work with. And find ways to be creative.
Don’t get caught in bureaucracy of over-thinking. If you recognize a good story, do it well. Do it quickly. Then repeat.
Q: What hidden talent or skill do you have that viewers/readers don’t know about you?
A: I’ve gotten a hole-in-one, but I’m honestly still a terrible golfer. I once helped Vanilla Ice pick out a tattoo. One New Year’s Eve I watched the Space Needle fireworks form inside the P-I globe, and my first cat was named Molly.
The PR Pro Takeaway: This journalist takes his craft seriously. Pay special attention to his advice for PR professionals and if you’re thinking of getting a tattoo, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Tweet to him or find him on Linkedin.
Casey wanted to include a few of his favorite stories:
- Steve Hartman has so many gems, and this is one of the best with exceptional editing: http://cbsn.ws/bEL1Mc
- Here’s an amazing story that could have been lost if not pitched properly: http://bit.ly/YroLa6
- Carol Smith writes so well she could make obscure sections of the Internal Revenue Code sound interesting. This story of hers is especially captivating: bit.ly/14g8Smc
- Love this story from former Seattle Times reporter Cara Solomon: http://bit.ly/aSy3la
- This is a story that came a couple articles after that excellent pitch in 2007. A story’s ending is the most important part, and this is the closest I’ve come to nailing it: http://bit.ly/SWjfZm