Leslie Mladinich followed her passion into journalism and built an impressive career across Bay Area newspapers and magazines, from her first assignments at The Montclarion and the Oakland Tribune, to her days covering transportation at the Tri-Valley Herald. In her first job as a journalism undergrad Leslie got embroiled in the Oakland School District’s controversial resolution recognizing Ebonics.
So why did she choose to pivot her career from journalism to marketing? Mladinich is now using her storytelling skills at Rodrigue Molyneaux Estate Winery and Vineyard, as head of marketing. I asked Leslie to discuss the decline of newspapers, the future of journalism, and how to make your pitch about people, not tech.
How do you see changes in journalism over the last 10 years?
On the one hand, it’s great because journalists, publications, and people’s voices are more accessible. On the other hand, long form writing is no longer in demand. The ability to have longevity with one audience for one publication–to build trust with readers and sources–has diminished.
With electronic media, people graze and scan. They may only read the first paragraph before they shut their laptop. As a result, real writing and news gathering skills are less of a priority, and blogs and memoir style pieces have been elevated.
The decline of long-form writing and newspapers has pushed journalists out, and they’ve turned to corporate communications and marketing. Anyone’s voice can be out there now, but news that makes a difference in people’s lives is declining.
What should PR pros keep in mind when pitching reporters?
All my favorite stories are about people, not things. I’m interested in how any story, event, or phenomena changes and challenges people. If a company is trying to tell its story, I want to know about the people involved.
You don’t have to focus only on the consumer. Who are the people who make your product, and why do they make it? What challenges have they faced? If it’s tangible and evokes the senses, it makes good copy.
What do you look for in a good source?
A good source kept me in the loop and wanted to have a partnership with me. They understood my job and what it takes to make readers read the whole piece.
During my stint as a biotech reporter at the East Bay Business Times, I would get press releases stating that a company had gotten funding for a new medical device. But I wanted to talk to the scientists, not the CEO. And scientists who came up with great metaphors would get quoted because they helped me convey the concept behind the device or drug.
It goes back to why I chose journalism: because I love learning about people’s passions and putting it into writing. For a day or a couple of hours you’re in someone’s profession, problem, or passion, and you get to learn about a subject you might not get to otherwise.