Press releases are NOT journalism

Press releases should GENERATE story IDEAS. They should not be stories themselves. Or even part of a story.

That’s why it surprised me that a poll on a recent Poynter. story about a Kansas City Star reporter being fired for using press releases in his columns had more than 50 percent of (presumably) journalists saying it’s okay to use press releases as long as they’re attributed (as of July 5).

Um… WHAT?

Running press releases is my least favorite part about journalism. Why? Because it’s NOT. JOURNALISM. Running press releases lets someone else — who was not properly trained in the journalism industry — fill precious space that, in most cases, could be filled with original, better work from staff reporters, freelancers, editors, etc.

Though readers don’t see it, it makes the paper look lazy (which, by the way, was my vote on the Poynter. poll). Printing press releases as if they are original news deceives (perhaps, unintentionally) the reader into believing they are getting quality, original news when, in fact, a dozen other media outlets in the area could be running the same story. Word for word.

Plus, what good does it do for a newspaper or website to have large portions of its space/webpage devoted to information that can be found anywhere?

I come from a strict no-press release background. I just wish the rest of the real world held to that policy as much as my college paper and its adviser did.

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2 thoughts on “Press releases are NOT journalism

  1. In college, if we used a press release, our advisor made us put our byline on it. That was encouragement enough for me never to use them! Lol! So it was shocking to me when I got to my current newspaper and saw so many people turn them in. It’s easy info and for a reporter with a quota of two to three stories a day, I can see why it may be appealing. I don’t agree that all press releases are useless though. If I’m going to use a press release, it’s normally because I did not know about whatever it is that’s going on and feel it’s actually newsworthy. (This is rare though, because I know all. Lol. jk!). Then, I will pretty much rewrite it and call more sources for quotes and information…therefore in my opinion turning it into an actual story.

  2. We weren’t allowed to use press releases at all at my college paper. We could use them for story ideas, and did quite a bit when I first started there, but never as an actual story. One of the first places I would look for story ideas was on SIUE’s website because they compiled press releases in an easily accessible place. I think press releases do have a place in journalism, but more as story ideas, not actual stories themselves. But taking a press release and getting more information makes sense. It’s just the blatant copy-paste that drives me nuts!

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