PRSA Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Magazine Talk Shop

By Jen Rignani

When members of PRSA Pittsburgh and staff of Pittsburgh Magazine gathered at the publication’s offices on a rain-soaked Tuesday morning on August 21, the algorithms that dictate our daily lives were silenced, if just for 90 minutes. The indubitable fact was this: For all of the digital tools and outlets available to us, personal relationships between editorial teams and communications professionals are the heartbeat of successful journalism and PR.

Lethargy can make us settle, in our profession, to pitch to emails (not people) and seek the easiest digital path to publication. So “putting a face to the name” plays a critical role in sharpening our skills. Traditional journalism and experienced publications have high standards and to navigate their terrain, it’s key to understand the genesis of idea to story. Further, it’s easy to get sucked into outlets like Media Post or chase the big dogs like The Wall Street Journal and forget what we have in our own Pittsburgh hills. City and regional magazines are considered a major media market and knowing the key people at the publication is a benefit we were delighted to extend to attendees from PRSA.

With Pittsburgh Magazine’s 50th birthday just around the corner, sprits were high. Editor Brian Hyslop and Betsy Benson, publisher and vice president actively engaged with young professionals who braved the weather to benefit from their deep expertise. For early-career PRSA members present, the breakfast event provided rare access to two highly experienced journalists and their team. Some highlights of the conversation:

  • All writers for the magazine adhere to strict journalistic guidelines as set for by the American Society of Magazine Editors, as do all members of the City and Regional Magazine Association.
  • Remember that as a monthly magazine, editors are working 2-3 months in advance on editions. So, don’t pitch a Christmas story in December!
  • “The 412” is a daily newsletter from the editors, and an opportunity to reach audiences in between issues.
  • The magazine always has, and always will have professional fact checkers assigned to all articles.

A telling sign of the journalistic times came when attendee Meesha Gerhart, owner of Red Tree Web Design flipped through one of the complimentary issues and asked, “Where do story ideas come from?” In the conversation that ensued, it was evident that it isn’t always clear today the difference between paid content and straight reporting. Betsy Benson emphasized that stories bloom from ideas, not advertising dollars. She said that they welcome outreach from PR professionals to engage with the magazine to do both, as both have great value to consumers and brands. They strive to ensure the difference is clear by labeling paid content.

A huge thank you to our hosts and to our members who took the time to join us. PRSA members who may have missed the event can get to know Pittsburgh Magazine and introduce yourself to the editorial and advertising staff here.


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