Journalist profile: Timothy Renshaw, managing editor, Business in Vancouver

TimRenshaw.jpgWhat do you love most about your job?

It’s creative, deadline-driven, exacting, all-consuming and educational. It offers an endless string of interesting people to interview and connect with and an equally interesting inventory of subjects, stories, trends and issues to investigate, dissect and deliver to readers.

It also offers the opportunity to make a difference in the wider world by enlightening, engaging and challenging readers about issues that affect their businesses, their communities and their lives.

The newspaper in the new 21st century media reality is far more than information delivered via newsprint. At Business in Vancouver and most other publications, it’s information and analysis delivered hourly via digital and mobile editions. It’s also now a two-way conversation between journalists and readers. Hard to find another pursuit that so relentlessly challenges its purveyors to effectively inform and entertain an audience every day.

Never a dull moment; never enough time.

When is the best time to pitch to you?

When I’m not face to face with a press deadline. Success with pitching stories increases the further from those deadlines those pitches are made, unless, of course, the story is time-sensitive.

Emails are the most effective pitch option; they allow succinct story pitch summaries, contacts and other information to be quickly forwarded to the appropriate reporter; cold calls via phone are least effective. Phone follow-ups too soon after emails have been sent usually don’t allow editors the time to consider what has been pitched.

When it comes to pitching, perseverance is key.

What do you look for in a story?

As the name suggests, Business in Vancouver is focused on business issues, trends and challenges in a wide range of industrial and commercial sectors of B.C.’s economy; its daily online editions (www.biv.com) provide continually updated news focused on business in Metro Vancouver and the rest of B.C.; its weekly print edition provides local business news, features and analysis of factors that affect companies and entrepreneurs and the provincial economy.

Stories also focus on business success and failure, both of which are great teachers and both of which provide lessons and insight for entrepreneurs on how to run better and more successful businesses.

The focus in our print edition today is shifting away from merely documenting that something happened to explaining why it happened and what it means; in short: context.

Business stories are focused on the art of business, economics and initiative, but they need at least one or more of the same ingredients fundamental to any story worth telling or reading. So PR representatives pitching stories for companies or other clients should add these to their checklist of successful pitch ingredients:

  • Celebrity: celebrity here can mean having cachet with stars, but more often relates to company expertise that the media can access easily and quickly. The subsequent exposure could confer celebrity on the company or its expert representative, depending on how often either is used by the media.

  • Conflict: Nothing like a good punch-up to get the crowd in the game. Your company need not be taking it on the chin or dealing out the blows, but if it has a solution or insight that runs counter to marketplace orthodoxy, you’ll have newsworthiness to peddle.

  • Humanity: The potential impact on people of what you’re pitching. Has none, you say? Just a company plug? In that case, as one wise public relations person once advised: “Don’t enter into this world. Buy an ad.” It’s not called earned media for nothing.

  • Immediacy: It’s current; it’s topical; your pitch and/or product has relevance to the issues of the day.

  • Locality: That’s geographical and psychological. What’s news in Toronto is not necessarily news in Vancouver.

  • Novelty: Something new and exciting. Or straight out of left field.

  • Peril: Pretty much anything in peril has news value. If your company has a solution to that peril, you and it will likely be added to newsroom story lineups.

  • Pictures: Worth a thousand words. Good visuals are newsroom gold. For some media, if you don’t have them you don’t have anything. Too many PRs fall short here.

What’s your biggest bugbear when working with PRs?

In general, PRs who are all exclamation points and no substance, have little to no idea who or what our print, magazine and online news and information products are, what their audiences are, why they are in business, why they matter to subscribers and advertisers.

More specifically, PRs who make pitches then can’t deliver the subjects, interviews or images when the newsroom needs them. You’ll usually only get one at-bat here. Not much patience or time in newsrooms to train PR folk.

Also PRs who haven’t taken the time to know a publication’s press or other deadlines and don’t know which editor or reporter in a newsroom specializes in which beats.

PRs working with dated contact lists, and PRs with poor written or other communication skills.

What’s your average day like?

It usually starts at around 5am and ends 12 or 13 hours later and includes various servings of items from the menu below in different orders and portions depending on the day of the week and the weekly news and print cycle.

Mandatory also in the mix, for me, is a 90-minute exercise break in the pool or weight room that ends with meditation time in a steam room to prepare for the next round of feeding the goat [print publication], dancing with details, grappling with space, searching for truth and insight that matters to Business in Vancouver and its readers.

Editor’s daily work menu:

  • Gather news/press release/market data

  • Respond to emails (approximately two hours per day)

  • Conduct interviews and gather information for editorials and/or stories

  • Write editorials and/or feature stories

  • Edit incoming stories from reporters

  • Organize images photos for stories

  • Map out weekly print pages

  • Edit print layouts

  • Lead staff story meetings

  • Lead staff production meetings

  • Cultivate newsroom talent

  • Make public appearances

  • Grapple with any outstanding legal matters

  • Process department budget, invoices

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