The making of the Muck Rack Daily: A behind-the-scenes look at how we publish our daily newsletter
Every Monday through Friday, the Muck Rack Daily newsletter lands in the inbox of more than 60,000 journalists, PR professionals and communicators all over the world.
The popular newsletter, which launched in 2010, is a daily digest of journalism, written by journalists.
Journalism job changes, trending news stories and topics, what journalists are tweeting and more -- the Muck Rack Daily is the perfect read for a quick glance at what's happening in the world via journalists on Twitter every week day.
Take a peek behind-the-scenes at the making of the Muck Rack Daily.
How long have you been writing for the Muck Rack Daily?
Marla Lepore (ML): Since January of 2017
Delia Paunescu (DP): I started writing the Daily in spring 2012 but took a break from 2014-2016
From start to finish, approximately how long does it take you to write the Daily each day?
ML: About two hours total.
DP: On a particularly short day, 90 minutes. Most days, two hours.
How do you decide what stories to include each day?
ML: I try to group stories by theme and create some balance and variety so that it’s not too heavily focused on just one topic (read: Trump). The point is to cover the stories that are getting a lot of shares and attention, so whatever everyone’s been talking about is what usually gets top billing. But if there are specific media and journalism-related stories that day, I make a point to include a few of those, too. I also usually try to wrap it up with a funny, weird or entertaining story that’s making the rounds.
DP: The good news is that the news tells me what to include each day. The first thing I do is check the Muck Rack Newsroom to see what’s getting a lot of attention from journalists. 99 percent of the time, all of the stories that Muck Rack journalists are tweeting each morning go into that day’s Daily. If a story is getting a lot of buzz on social or is breaking but hasn’t gotten into the Newsroom, I’ll include that as well.
What news sources do you check daily to help gather content for the MRD?
ML: Like Delia mentioned above, the first step in the process is checking the Muck Rack Newsroom. I also find a lot from Twitter and other social media sites, things that pop up in my news feeds, and via Google News.
DP: I write everything that’s currently trending in the main Newsroom and let natural patterns that day emerge. Then I check the major news sites, then Facebook and Twitter. If there’s anything else that’s majorly trending that didn’t make it into the Newsroom, I’ll include as well.
Delia, you in particular have a long history writing the Daily. How have you seen it change over the years?
DP: When I started writing the Daily in 2012, we had a fraction of today’s subscribers. It was very small and I didn’t think many people were reading. Fortunately, Muck Rack cofounder and CEO Greg Galant and COO Natan Edelsburg (hi guys!) organized a meet-up and I got to talk to so many journalists and PR folks who really loved it. That was great! About a year later, we did a survey asking people to tell us what they liked and again, people came out of the woodwork to share their thoughts. We have significantly more readers now, but the community is just as engaged. Everyone who reads the newsletter comments and tweets in answers to the trivia question and definitely lets us know when we make a mistake. It feels like an ongoing conversation I have with the readers and that’s always been my favorite. It’s really nice to see that has only evolved the bigger we’ve gotten.
GIFs are a hot topic of conversation when it comes to the Daily. First off, do you pronounce it gif or jif? And second, how do you select GIFs for the Daily?
ML: Oh great, bring me into this debate. I go with the hard “g,” but I’m not mad at you if you say jif. The GIF-selection process can send me down a rabbit hole if I’m not careful. Sometimes I have the perfect one already in mind, but if I don’t, I can quickly get lost in the search. I try to be judicious about using them. I don’t want to put a goofy gif next to a serious story.
DP: I definitely say gif like “gift.” But I don’t mind when people say gif like “giraffe.” Potato, potahto, right? As for selecting them, it’s nearly the last thing I do before sending out. I use my Giphy Chrome plug-in and pick some things I think are relevant and funny. But fully agree with Marla in that it’s always important to keep it sensitive and not include a silly gif next to a tragic story.
As a journalist, how can I write features that would be considered for inclusion in the Muck Rack Daily?
ML: Any hot political topics are going to get a lot of shares by journalists, so those kinds of stories are always on my radar, but I also look for interesting features and long-form journalism, because it breaks things up, and the readers like to discover great writing and reporting. I’ll see that those stories get tweeted with a hat tip to Muck Rack. A recent personal favorite was The Oregonian’s The Loneliest Polar Bear series.
DP: What Marla said. If your feature has buzz–especially with other journos, it’ll definitely get onto our radar. Otherwise, we can always tweet me if you want me to see something. I especially like to include a longer feature on Fridays so readers have something to savor going into the weekend.
How do you choose a featured journalist?
ML: We have a Slack channel where our Editorial Director Andrew Mercier usually lets us know who to feature, but one of my favorite featured journalist stories was when I got a Twitter DM from a journalist who asked if I could feature her husband, who’s also a journalist, on his birthday. I was happy to oblige!
DP: Nowadays, Andrew gracefully takes care of finding us great journalists to feature. Back in the day, I just picked people who were always popping up in the Newsroom by sharing their colleagues’ work or being retweeted by the Muck Rack community. I’m always happy to highlight someone’s work in the Daily and LOVE learning about all the cool beats you guys cover around the world.
Let’s talk Question of the Day, as it’s quite popular with loyal Muck Rack Daily readers. How do you come up with questions?
ML: I can thank Muck Rack for all the trivia I now have in my head. I usually base the questions on something timely in the news, or something seasonal, but sometimes it’s just random stuff I come across or read about.
DP: The questions I include in the Daily are honestly me asking myself, “What’s the coolest thing I learned this week and didn’t already know?” I’ll usually make a question around that. Working in news, you’re learning new things constantly so it’s really fun to be able to share it with the readers AND doubly so to see how excited they get about answering.
What has surprised you most about writing the Daily?
ML: Probably how much trivia certain journalists know! And how hard it is to decide when to stop. I could easily include ten times as much content as I do.
DP: Writing it as long as I have, very little surprises me anymore. But I do love when a very tiny local story get huge traction on Twitter and ends up in our Newsroom. And while less of a surprise, I am always fascinated by the fact that what journalists are tweeting about first thing in the morning is what’s going to end up as the trending story by EOD. They spot it first and it’s good to be in the know.
Any other fun facts about the MRD you’d like to share that you think might surprise readers?
ML: I’m always looking for great tweets for headlines and subject lines. So that’s one more way you can get a little extra attention in the Daily!
DP: If you’re going to tweet out a link, don’t just tweet the headline, make it your own, have fun with it, share your thoughts. Those are the tweets that end up being our MRD subject line and engaging headlines. They come from you. But it’s always a little disappointing when a great story has been shared with 1 interesting tweet and 250 headline retweets.
In full disclosure, the Muck Rack Daily is a gateway drug to the rest of Muck Rack. Curious to learn more about how Muck Rack can help you improve your public relations success? We’d love to tell you more.
Jessica Lawlor is the features editor for the Muck Rack blog and handles PR and social media for Muck Rack.