Often I have wanted to paste stickers on ‘news’ items that appear in newspapers. They would say, for instance, that this story is a ‘re-written media release,’ or, ‘To ensure future interviews with subject, important questions were not asked.’
This publication, of course, tries its utmost to provide real news to its community; however, the reality is that re-written media releases make up a portion of what constitutes ‘news’.
It’s vital that the public know exactly what they read, watch or listen to is of real journalistic quality. And journalists, for anyone interested, are becoming more integrated with public relations (PR) companies.
Journos and editors have media releases lobbed to them from governments and public relations companies daily. And when a ‘journalist’ puts their name to a re-written media release, it damages not only their reputation and credibility but their publication’s.
It’s disingenuous, lazy, incompetent and is a threat to society.
Real journalists never re-write, they ask questions. They take different points of view; they contrast. When a PR company tells the media something wonderful about its product, or a government tells them how well they are doing, journalists should ask the fundamental question: who does it affect? Of course the best journalism is investigative and does not rely on media releases. It could be argued that media releases are just free advertising. Smart publicists tailor their media releases to a publication and good publications never reprint generic media releases as is.
Does the majority of Australians accept what they read, see or hear in the media? Or is it mostly about manipulation and control? It is always worth remembering that the privileged few that have this voice are of course linked to advertising dollars.
With never-ending cost cutting, many publications don’t have the staff to follow up every media release. Hence, most local publications continue to compromise their editorial content with unexamined media releases.
It’s the ratio of media releases to ‘real news’ that makes a difference; not only to the publication, but to the eventual outcome of a community’s better understanding of itself.
Everything this week is last week’s news anyway. Last week’s newspapers are used for cleaning windows, kitty litter, wrapping chips and – most importantly – starting fires.