"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Thursday, 24 February 2011

NEWS STORY or REGURGITATED PRESS RELEASE? There's a website that will help you tell the difference

I have slightly mixed feelings about this as I occasionally teach a class on how to write a press release that is so like a 'proper' news story that it will get published just the way you've written it. Good PR is about getting the message across and winning those all important column inches, of course, and in the case of my students the message is usually something along the lines of local-author-signs-books-at-out-of-town-community-centre and they need all the help they can get to have anyone pop along who hasn't been bribed by the promise of a pint afterwards or is related by blood...
But what about the big stories? Are they the product of a journalist asking questions or a very biased press release?
You can find out by visiting Churnalism, an independant website set up by a media charity. (Click on the title of this post to go straight there.) All you have do is paste in any news story that raises your suspicions.
‘Churnalism’ is defined as a news article that is published as journalism, but is essentially a press release without much added.
I predict that we are going to see more and more churned out stories as staffing levels in editorial departments are slashed. And when it comes to things that matter we do need people to ask questions.


MorningAJ said...

As an ex journalist it always annoys me when people try to tell me how to write press releases. Because most people haven't a clue. And even worse - my boss says "that would make a good press release" when what he means is that he wants a free advert.

I'm proud to say that most of my releases are used verbatim because I'm good at my job. But it annoys me when no-one bothers even to re-write the intro.

Back in my day we always redid the first couple of paragraphs because we knew every other newspaper in the known universe would have received the same thing and we didn't want to make it obvious.

Don't they employ subs any more?

OK - rant over!

BRIDGET said...

My background is in journalism too and I think you've put your finger on it when you ask if publications employ subs any more...They do but not nearly enough...and they undervalue the job they do (completely unbiased - was never a sub, temperamentally unsuited to the role.)

MorningAJ said...

Oh me too. I'd have been a monster! :)

BRIDGET said...

I'd have been wrong....