What Media Members Don’t Know

“Common knowledge is knowledge that is known by everyone or nearly everyone, usually with reference to the community in which the term is used,” says Wikipedia.

Because one person’s common knowledge does not always jibe with another’s, we sometimes have to fill in the blanks.

When we reach out to a media member or a media gatekeeper, we need to make everything easy to understand. (Otherwise our email or voicemail message may be quickly deleted.) This means providing clarity and context in just a few sentences.

Even the brightest media person (writer, broadcaster, producer, editor) does not know everything about everything. Reporters sometimes ask what appear to be ill-informed questions because they’re not as well informed as we might presume them to be.

When a local broadcaster famously asked a medical guest if prostate cancer was also a problem for women and was told that women do not have a prostate, some chuckled. Should a younger person who interviews people about a huge range of topics, a person who may have never even considered prostate cancer, be shamed for not having a more complete medical knowledge? I think not.

How can we help? By offering fact sheets to interviewers and gatekeepers. By providing links to relevant web content. By making clear which elements of a story are the most important. By avoiding jargon and complex terminology. By providing actual questions for media to ask. (Some media folks may resent being offered sample questions but others may appreciate the gesture.)

Your goal is to have your message clearly presented to the media outlet’s audience. Making life easier for the people who are delivering that message will help you achieve your goal.


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