When news flows 24 hours a day, seven days a week, gone are the days when newspapers were the primary source of news consumption. Today, social media platforms and online news outlets dictate the flow of information. This shift has changed how news is reported. On one hand, voices from all over the world can report and be heard, but on the other hand, we have entered an era of misinformation and fake news.

Technology has revolutionized journalism, offering new tools and platforms for storytelling. Journalists can engage with and inform their audiences though interactive graphics and multimedia experiences. But that current era makes the fundamental principles of journalism — integrity and accuracy — more important than ever.

Journalists have a responsibility to inform and educate their audiences, which requires fact-checking and balanced reporting. Yet the Muck Rack State of Journalism 2024 study shows that journalists are churning out content at full tilt while feeling the stress of job insecurity and extreme pressure to perform — fast.

Several takeaways from the survey can help legal PR professionals better understand the reporters and editors they work with. But first, let’s review why law firms should care about the current state of journalism.

Why Journalism Should Matter to Law Firms

The current state of journalism has a significant impact on the legal industry in several ways.

Legal Marketing and Public Relations: Law firms and attorneys often rely on media exposure to market their services and enhance their reputations. Positive coverage in reputable publications can boost a firm’s credibility, attract clients and differentiate it from competitors. On the other hand, negative media attention or scandals can damage a firm’s reputation and undermine its business prospects.

Legal Reporting and Public Perception: Journalistic coverage of lawsuits and legal issues shapes public perception. Media reports can influence opinions about the fairness and effectiveness of the legal process, affecting jury pools and attitudes toward specific issues or policies.

Legal Analysis and Commentary: Legal journalism provides analysis of and commentary about legal developments, cases and legislation. This coverage can influence understanding of the law, legal strategies and interpretations of legal precedent. In some cases, legal journalists may offer insights that prompt lawyers to reconsider approaches to a case or legal argument.

Access to Information: Lawyers rely on accurate and timely information to build their cases and provide effective counsel to their clients, while journalists play a crucial role in uncovering legal issues, exposing injustices and holding legal institutions accountable. Investigative reporting can reveal systemic flaws in the legal system, which can spark reforms and legal advocacy efforts.

Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility: Journalistic scrutiny of legal professionals’ conduct can influence ethical standards within the legal industry. Exposés of lawyer misconduct, conflicts of interest or unethical behavior can trigger disciplinary actions by bar associations, damage lawyers’ reputations and lead to professional consequences.

Legal Strategy and Litigation: Lawyers may use media coverage strategically in litigation to influence settlement negotiations, jury selection or public opinion. They may also need to respond to media inquiries or address misinformation that has spread through journalistic outlets.

Legal Education: Lawyers may use media coverage to support their litigation efforts or to challenge legal precedents and policies. Legal journalism can contribute to public understanding of complex legal issues, serving as a forum for debate, discussion and education.

What is Happening in the Journalism Industry

Today, journalists are mainly concerned about lack of funding and lack of trust in journalism. Respondents to the Muck Rack survey raised concerns about decreases and declines: in funding, in local news, in readership, in quality control and even in safety.

But the concern that attorneys should take note of was lack of time to cover stories thoughtfully.

The takeaway: Give journalists everything they need to cover your news — all of the relevant elements of the story, quotes, contact information; even court documents.

On the other side of the coin, journalists reported concerns about increases in other areas: disinformation, polarization, competition for audience attention and market saturation.

Given that most of the journalists who responded to the survey reported working in digital media, law firms should take note that the print era is receding farther and farther in the rearview mirror.

In good news for law firms, a whopping 82% of journalists consider subject matter experts to be credible sources for reporting.

Company and agency PR professionals were less likely to be considered credible, making it critical that publicists who represent law firms and lawyers build relationships and establish credibility with reporters and editors by following best practices for PR.

About 70% of journalists said PR professionals were important to the success of their jobs, demonstrating that law firms have an excellent opportunity to reach PR goals and establish their attorneys as subject matter experts. And yet, nearly half of journalists report that they ignore PR pitches, mostly because what they receive is not relevant to their coverage areas.

The takeaway here is that legal PR professionals should carefully cultivate their relationships with journalists, ensuring that pitches are relevant, well-written, and have all the necessary information to maintain a good relationship with journalists and editors.

To learn more about developing a PR plan that will adapt to changes in the journalism industry, reach out to me, Lisa Altman, at laltman@jaffepr.com.