Innovation, newswires, and AI: an audience with PA Media

Peter Clifton, Editor-in-Chief at PA Media, was recently back at Luther Pendragon’s offices for a #LutherNetwork breakfast roundtable hosted by Director and Head of Media & Training Beany McLean. Here are the key takeaways from the event, from the innovations taking place at PA Media Group and AI in journalism to the importance of newswires and PA’s vital role in local media.

What role does PA Media play today?

Peter’s visit gave us a timely reminder of the history and reach of PA Media. Formerly the Press Association, the organisation has been around since 1868, making it one of the oldest news organisations in the world. Over 150 years later, it’s still going strong. Peter told us how the success of PA is largely down to the trust it has built both within the journalism profession and among the wider public.

Peter also discussed how PA Media is often the only organisation who will reliably be on the ground. Niche debates in the House of Lords? PA will cover it. A rural horse race with a crowd of under 1000? One of them will be a PA reporter. This is also increasingly extending to live videos, with 6-10 streams per day of press conferences and other announcements.

Innovation in journalism

Turning to recent innovations in journalism, Peter highlighted that PA Media now employs five data journalists. Once a new dataset is released, they will interrogate the set for interesting trends relevant to different localities, and generative AI will use a template story to draft narratives to suit different regions. This is delivered through the ‘RADAR’ initiative –  Reporters And Data And Robots. Each piece of copy is thoroughly checked by a human, Peter was quick to mention, but the ability to use AI to tailor a piece in this manner provides much food for thought for the industry.

The next innovation, which many in journalism would greet with delight, may be software which can filter a journalist’s inbox to select the most news-worthy releases from PRs, Peter said. Certainly one to keep tabs on for those of us trying to get their attention day in, day out.

When considering ESG, Peter noted that there’s a perception that PA Media is for those working in the media and PR, but its ESG channel has much wider uses. Peter described huge demand for ESG think pieces from a plethora of organisations who may not have previously come to PA Media. While Luther Pendragon’s recent ESG quarterly report found that ESG thought leadership coverage is facing a steady decline, this doesn’t seem to be the case as far as PA Media is concerned.

Seeking coverage in PA

And lastly came the million dollar question – how do you get your release covered by PA Media? Peter’s advice was twofold. Firstly, go straight to the specialists. Don’t rely on your release being cascaded down from a generic newsroom inbox; if you know who is likely to write your story, send it directly to them. Secondly, as PA Media continues to expand into multi-media content, remember to send a picture or video to accompany your release copy.

Peter also gave us some good hints as to what not to do. Surveys, unless they’re robust, aren’t going to be covered. If the research behind your story is based on flimsy evidence, it’ll be found out. And do not try an April Fool’s joke unless you’re willing to risk your organisation getting blacklisted.

The Future of PA

PA Media has lasted over 150 years and its future looks promising. It’s a forward-looking, expanding news agency and it was fascinating to hear Peter’s insights. We thoroughly enjoyed having him back at our office and owe him huge thanks for giving up his time.

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