News You Can Use

November 14, 2004

Mary Ann Travis
Phone: (504) 865-5714

It arrives each morning like clockwork, a little nugget of information that keeps faculty, staff and students of Tulane plugged into the who, what, when and where of university life.

prOver the last four years the Daily News, which is e-mailed to Tulane constituents every day by the Office of Public Relations, has become something of an institution.

"It's a good way of keeping everyone informed of all the good things that are happening at Tulane," says Mike Strecker, director of public relations and author of the Daily News. "I try to make it readable and friendly."

Strecker hopes people click on the Daily News because they can count on it taking 30 seconds or less to read.

He also doesn't shy away from making it a bit fun, too. Readers may recall catchy headlines such as "Are you down with PBK?" referring to the scholarly organization Phi Beta Kappa or "Doctors behaving badly," an item about a program to teach doctors how to appropriately act toward subordinates and peers.

Rain or shine, the Daily News is sent out at the crack of dawn to 20,000 people each day, five days a week. Every item is actually prepared the day before and is timed to be sent the next morning. It's down to the wire every afternoon, says Strecker, who waits until the last moment to decide the topic, always ready for the possibility of breaking news.

He has a file of newsworthy items that people send to him via the "Tell Us Your News" link on the newsroom website. Or they call or write, seeking publicity for events or worthy causes. Each afternoon Strecker brainstorms ideas for publication with Kathryn Hobgood, media specialist, and Zack Weaver, public relations coordinator.

Fran Simon, director of public relations, and Madeline Vann, assistant director of public relations, in the health sciences center, contribute ideas, as well. "I try to select things that I think have universitywide interest," says Strecker, "and something that I would like to know about, which, of course, is very subjective."

Strecker goes for a mix of news. He doesn't allow repeats or partisanship without equal time. And he sticks in the occasional offbeat student and alumni tidbit. There is always something to write about, but writing about it isn't always easy. Those four lines of Tulane Daily News can sometimes take Strecker an hour to write. He aims for brevity, punch and pithiness. And Strecker has fun with words.

A stand-up comedian in his off-hours, Strecker lets his humorous sensibility loose on the Daily News. But within bounds. "I do try to be respectful. I think you can joke about something and still respect it." The more esoteric the subject, the more Strecker likes to play with it. His proofreaders, Weaver and Hobgood, are his sounding board.

Weaver says, "I like it because I get the scoop the day before it goes out." Strecker relies on Weaver for insight into generational differences. Weaver, who graduated from Tulane College in 2002, says Strecker asks him, "Will someone your age--or younger--get this?"

A classic Daily News is the one about the owl researcher entitled "Research is a hoot for professor." Strecker went on to comment that the researcher could find himself in his field's "Who's Who." Strecker, who's been in the public relations office since 1998 and earned a master of arts in English from Tulane in 2003, says he's learned, "The more education you can get, the funnier you are. I don't think there are any dumb funny people. The wider body of knowledge you have, the more you have to pull from."

So, open up those e-mail gems delivered each morning. There may be a message you won't want to miss.

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