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News releases: what to do – what to do?


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In another life I worked as a PR director for nonprofit organizations.  That was before the age of the world wide web and blogs, but not before the age of news releases.  I used to write them.  I was let go from my job by an ignorant boss who did not like the amount of publicity I “produced” for the organization in our local newspaper.  I say he was ignorant because he did not understand that sending out a news release does not insure it will ever come to print.  Fast forward to 2010.

I changed careers from media to clinical social work, retired a few years ago and now my (volunteer) “career” is blogging.  Do I work for pay in the media? No.  But I do work at being a responsible blogger every day, writing in one form or another.  The key question for all of us in similar situations, however, seems to be this.

“Are bloggers considered journalists?”  We have not yet settled this issue.  The courts have ruled differently in different cases.  Mainstream media journalists do not agree on how they view blogs and bloggers.  Not do we bloggers ourselves.  But the best of us do agree that meeting certain journalistic standards of performance is vital to our work.  Those values for me include, telling the truth, labeling my biases, citing and/or protecting my sources — and choosing them wisely, and avoiding over generalization, to name a few.  Those are my obligations, even though self-imposed.  My readers evaluate my work.  Which brings me to the reason I write today’s post.

A significant number of news releases have come to my public Email box in the past couple of months that ask me to distribute their information.  One was addressed, “Dear Editor.”  That brought me up short.  It was new to my experience and thinking.  Moreover, the sources of the releases range  widely and are not all from the left side of the political spectrum, as I would predict. 

Let me excerpt a few of the most recent (unsolicited) Emails:

  • Urgent Press Release: The Winners and Losers in the ‘Commodities New World Order’

    MoneyMorning.com Press Release

    The Winners and Losers in the
    ‘Commodities New World Order’


    Dear Editor —
    Soon, commodities producers will be “kings” in the new world economic order. . . .

  • (from the National Education Association): FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE            CONTACT: XXXXXX
    April 29, 2010  cfbusser@nea.org . . . President Obama says children need teachers in classrooms. Teachers are “the key to our success in today’s global economy.”

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Obama publicly encouraged efforts to keep teachers in the classroom, and thanked NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) and Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) for their leadership during a White House ceremony today honoring the 2010 National Teacher of the Year.

  • Hi, LHJ.com posted an exclusive interview with Former First Lady Laura Bushhttp://www.lhj.com/style/covers/qa-with-laura-bush/.  The June issue, on newsstands May 13th, also includes an excerpt of Bush’s new memoir, Spoken From the Heart, with passages addressing her husband’s drinking, her struggles with infertility and her relationship with her mother-in-law, and a photo shoot with Bush and her daughters.  Please let me know if you’d like to see that PDF along with a hi res JPG of the cover.
  • (English and Spanish versions included)  TransAfrica Forum, Jesuit Refugee Service, Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United States, Press Release, April 28, 2010.-
    Best Practices for Humanitarian Assistance to Haiti Outlined in Event at Venezuela’s Bolivarian Hall in Washington D.C.  
    Washington DC.- With significant challenges remaining in addressing the humanitarian needs of the Haitian people following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, two organizations with experience in the Caribbean country today shared information on the continued humanitarian crisis in Haiti and their opinions on how to best address it.
  • (from the Ken Lewis for Senate organization – North Carolina)   Hi –  I wanted to submit this to you for publication on your blog. Attached here and pasted in the body of the email is an Op-ed from Former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun, where she argues for diversity and inclusion in the US Senate.  I hope that you can publish this on your blog. We hope that it will spark needed discussion on the topic.  . . . David

To conclude, regarding my dilemma — Since I am apparently, for some unknown reason, now on a circulated PR mailing lists, what should I do with the consequences of that possibility?  Should I publish the ones that seem legitimate — as I have done today — or only those that “have merit,” i.e. comply with my biases?  Or should I opt out of getting further mailings wherever possible?  Or do I need to consider that these Emails are from my actual readers? After all, I am one of those “little bloggers” without thousands of readers.  The bottom line is, if I am attempting to meet minimum journalistic standards, what is proper regarding unsolicited news releases? 

I have been too long out of the field to know what today’s answers would be.  Can you help?

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