Behind the News with Christine Pitawanich: An Education in Pandemic Reporting [Podcast]

Behind the News with Christine Pitawanich: An Education in Pandemic Reporting [Podcast]

This week on the PR Talk Podcast, Amy is joined by Christine Pitawanich, education reporter for KGW-TV News, an NBC affiliate television station serving the Portland, Oregon area. The two discuss Christine’s experience reporting during the pandemic, how it affected investigations, changes in education reporting, and tips for PR people pitching TV.

Being a Reporter During the Pandemic

Before the pandemic, Christine worked as a general assignment reporter for KGW, meaning she would report on a variety of compelling stories. But when the pandemic hit, the scope of work changed for many reporters causing many of them to work from home or be assigned “beats” — which are specific topics to focus on — leading Christine to concentrate on education and COVID reporting. 

Because the pandemic altered many aspects of life, it took center stage on many newscasters’ desks, including Christine’s. In fact, her in-depth investigation on Oregon ICUs during the delta wave won an Emmy. However, investigations on how organizations handled this crisis didn’t stop in the healthcare industry. Christine found plenty to examine within education, especially regarding COVID issues. 


The Evolution of Education Reporting

Recalling the beginning of the pandemic, Christine set out to address the confusion schools, caretakers and staff were experiencing through discovering answers. With masking mandates, staffing shortages, and leadership being questioned, Christine’s conversations with interviewees tended to introduce new concerns to investigate.

While reaching out to districts, Christine found it difficult to obtain clear answers, possibly due to their fear of criticism. Teachers and staff were nervous about speaking out on school issues, making it hard for Christine to tell their stories. Luckily, as time persisted, she found caretakers and students willing to voice their opinions to elevate the current issues. 

Although education has always been on Christine’s radar, now more than ever, people are looking for answers, and so is she. Since education reporting trends could change at any moment because of COVID restrictions and other safety issues, she doesn’t see this beat slowing down anytime soon.


Tips For Your Next TV Pitch

With no shortage of issues surrounding education and COVID topics, Amy asked how PR people can stand out while also helping reporters. Since Christine receives pitches from PR people on the daily, she had many thoughts. Alongside her preference for local ties, Christine prioritizes timely pitches and available interviewees.

Timeliness: Since TV reporters have tight deadlines, it is key that the PR person sends their pitch early. Christine noted that sending the pitch a week ahead of time and on the day of (said event) is ideal. In “A Modern Guide to Public Relations,” Amy goes more in-depth on media etiquette and how to work with TV based on conversations with various reporters.

Availability: With timeliness comes the availability of your interviewee. When pitching an idea to a TV reporter, be sure that your interviewee is available within two hours of an interview request. Christine advised that before sending a pitch to TV, PR people should ensure their client is prepped and ready. Preparing your interviewee for the reporter could guarantee your spot above someone else. Remember, as PR pros, we are here to serve both the client and the reporter. 

To hear Christine’s advice and more about her decades of personal reporting experience, tune in now.

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About the guest: Christine Pitawanich

Christine is a reporter who shoots video, writes and edits footage, creating her own stories from the ground up at KGW-TV News, an NBC affiliate television station serving the Portland, Oregon area. Before KGW, she worked as a multimedia journalist for KOBI-TV NBC 5 News in Medford, Oregon. Christine recently received an Emmy award for her work on Overwhelmed: Inside Oregon’s ICUs, which showed how COVID’s delta wave affected healthcare workers. Her main investigative focus is now education.

Christine Pitawanich Headshot

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This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

Local Journalism May Be in a State of Recovery, But You Can Help

Local Journalism May Be in a State of Recovery, But You Can Help

Last month I was fortunate enough to attend an event hosted by the Portland chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Occurring somewhat regularly, PRSA partners with local media outlets to introduce public relations professionals to members of the media. In this particular instance, 25 industry professionals gained access to the tightly secured headquarters of The Oregonian/OregonLive. The subject of the morning: Jeff Manning.

A career journalist, Manning joined the Oregonian newsroom in 1994 and has since embodied an investigative approach to the trade, acting as a necessary check and balance on the distribution of power within state government and business enterprise. Alongside his success, however, Manning’s tenure at The Oregonian has also made him a close witness to the rampant changes facing the daily newspaper.


It’s no secret that print journalism is in sharp decline, and Manning did well to acknowledge the somewhat dismal portrait of the current industry. In 2013, The Oregonian’s owner — New Jersey-based, Advance Publications Inc.announced it would slash the daily’s home delivery to four days a week and lay off staff. This move came in conjunction with the creation of Oregonian Media Group, a syndicated management meant to house The Oregonian and its online affiliate, According to then-publisher, N. Christian Anderson III, the restructuring was an effort to support a “digital-first company.”

The Oregonian is certainly not the only local outlet that has faced big shifts like this. Just last month, Trib Total Media (TTM), a conglomerate in Southwestern Pennsylvania, told readers through a release that the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review would no longer offer its print edition and would, in effect, become yet another online-first publication. The slash of print resulted in the laying off of 106 staff members.

In the wake of these monumental cutbacks, it’s easy to spot one of the major contributing factors responsible for these industry changes — advertising revenue. In 2013, The Pew Research Center published its Annual Report on American Journalism, in which Pew released a table depicting the evolution of print versus online advertising revenue. From 2003 to the end of 2012, digital advertising revenue rose from $1.2 billion to $3.3 billion — great! Over that same ten-year period however, total print advertising revenue dropped over $25 billion — not so good. So while revenue for online ads is increasing modestly, it isn’t nearly a big enough moneymaker to cover the losses in print. In total, advertising revenue shrank by more than half in just ten years, putting the entire industry in a tightening bind.


At no point during the lecture did Manning come across sounding defeatist — he simply donned his economic Darwinian cap underlining that today’s shifts and pressures on local newspapers are just a new set of obstacles to overcome in order to survive. The moral of the story? As public relations professionals, we bear some brunt of the impact as well. We depend on newspapers like these for results, and in effect, our careers are at the mercy of the reporters.

To expand the scope even further, newspapers drive a majority of the information food chain to everyone, not just those immediately in the profession. Reporters like Jeff Manning, who have dedicated their careers to chasing down important, investigative stories are absolutely integral to our political and economic landscape. So while the industry may be in a state of shock and recovery, it must recover, otherwise the door will be left wide open.

Do you want an actionable item? Support and read your local newspapers. Picking up a home subscription of your community paper allows Manning, and reporters like him, the necessary platform to keep vital information in circulation.