San Francisco Public Relations Round Table members listened spellbound to Carolyne Zinko’s presentation on October 28, which revealed not just what’s going on with the topic of style, but the realities of “feeding the beast” of social media while attempting to turn out stories of substance.
“I didn’t go into this field for the free champagne,” said Zinko, who has loved newspapers since she was a girl. But experiencing 20 years of change at the Chronicle has brought her to today’s reality in which each reporter is urged to be his or her own “brand” and must continually turn out Tweet-able, Facebook-ready, hash-taggable bites that will “get the most eyeballs” online.
Calling social media “mechanical busywork,” Zinko laments the lack of time to devote to news that matters, both to herself personally and to the readers who also want substantive, socially conscious reporting. Zinko believes that San Francisco is the “land of the next big thing” and that the rich culture, diversity and lifestyles of the Bay Area shouldn’t be reduced to the likes of an Instagram post.
The Chronicle Style section, in which Zinko’s lively reporting can be seen, along with the rest of the Hearst Corporation-owned news organization, is changing to a digital media vehicle that happens to also put out a printed newspaper. While Zinko fights to publish stories that reflect the Bay Area’s rich diversity of both backgrounds and creative thinking, she faces continual pressure to report what can be reduced to a post or a photo with a caption, which she must also write.
Zinko’s days do contain some high spots, though, that she shared with our group. Some of her favorite stories that satisfied her need for serious reporting and also garnered high readership featured Twitter founder Biz Stone, industrial designer Yves Behar and opera singer Debra Voight, whose recent successful weight loss transformed her life while leaving her voice intact.
Zinko also cited her “most fun fashion shoot,” set up by our own president Mary Currie, atop the tower on the Golden Gate Bridge along with a fearless model and a photographer. She described the shoot as the closest thing to “feeling like heaven above the clouds.”