No matter what kinds of stories you cover, you’re bound to run into public information officers. And while paid professional spokespeople can be a huge help to journalists, I used the term “run into” for good reason.
All too often, PIOs act as barriers instead of conduits to getting information. How can you break through?
Investigative producer Lynn Walsh of WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida, has tried everything from end runs to public shaming to get people to speak with her. It doesn’t always work, but it often does. And when it fails? Walsh also has tips on how to handle a “no” on TV.
If relations are particularly sticky with an agency, Walsh advises organizing a meeting at the station with the officials in question. Her pitch: “You’re making it difficult for us to inform the community. What can we do differently?” It may improve things for a few months, she says, after which you’ll probably need to set up another meeting.