By Kathleen Williams
On March 9, Enquirer Media (the new name for what we used to refer to as the Cincinnati Enquirer) and Peter Bhatia, the newish editor and Vice President for Audience Engagement, hosted PRSA at a breakfast gathering.
(Full confession: Although I hadn’t seen Peter in years, I worked with him back in the day at the Fresno Bee. Small world, indeed.)
Peter was candid about the woes the industry has faced or many years. “It’s no secret that every media company has been to hell and back,” he said. “But there’s a new energy and obviously new leadership here. I think there are better days ahead.”
Peter was referring to himself and President and Publisher Rick Green, who returned to Cincinnati a year ago to take the top reins at the Enquirer. Rick worked at the Enquirer for 16 years beginning in 1988, and then moved on to other Gannett leadership posts before coming back.
Peter’s had an illustrious career, most recently at the Portland Oregonian, which won six Pulitzers under his leadership. He had begun teaching at Arizona State, where he was director of the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, and thought he would close out his career there – and then the Enquirer came calling.
The Enquirer is celebrating its 175th birthday this year, so get ready to hear about events and activities tied to that. In fact, Peter talked about how important it was for the Enquirer to be "of the community," engaged actively in ways that go beyond sponsoring an event. Its #CincyStorytellers series is one such avenue.
His goal? “I want to focus on producing unique journalism that people can’t get elsewhere.” But he emphasizes that the Enquirer cannot be a “paper of record.” The Enquirer doesn’t have the resources to cover every community, let alone every meeting, so it needs to pick its spots. (He pointed to the paper’s MSD coverage as an example of this, as well as its coverage on the Cincinnati parks levy.)
“We have to be all over the issues,” he says, and to that end, he has reorganized beats. The Enquirer recently rehired Mark Curnutte, who is covering race and minority communities; Terry DeMio, a longtime Northern Kentucky reporter, now covers heroin and all its attendant issues; Emilie Eaton covers poverty, and Kate Murphy, higher ed.
He advised PR professionals to work relationships with reporters at the Enquirer. “Relationships are everything,” he said. “But pick your spots …. Don’t send something every 10 minutes.” But make the pitch when you know you have a good story to tell.
It was an informative session and we appreciate the time Peter took to meet with us.