Am I the only one who believes the term "press" is just a little archaic?
Early in my long and extinguished PR career, a TV newsman rather patiently explained to me that since the company he worked for did not actually use a press, he was irked by the term "press release."
The press, in his eyes, meant newspaper reporters. Ergo, ever since the advent of television news (not to mention radio), calling something a press release was outdated. Today, with the Internet delivering vast amounts of information via that "series of tubes" Senator Ted Stevens told us about, the term would seem to be even more anachronistic than ever.
How about if we just call these things, I don't know, news releases?
And while we're at it, let's stop calling that the gaggle of vultures, bottom feeders, pretenders, and valiant guardians of truth and justice "the press." They really should now and forever be referred to as "the media." That is, unless you prefer something somewhat more classic such as "the town criers," "the smoke signalists," or "them what scratch squiggly stuff on the walls of the cave."
And then there's "For Immediate Release," a note in the upper left hand corner of every goddamn news release since the first flacks climbed up from the primordial muck. There was a time, I suppose, when "newsmakers" (i.e., important people, not PR scumbags) could reach an understanding with the ink-stained wretches of the newspaper persuasion as to when to release a piece of news. Until, say, six p.m. this evening, for example, the "press" would agree not to blab, giving the newsmakers time to run away, sell their stock, or compose plausible excuses before the shit hit the fan. This agreement went under the somewhat quaint, yet awkward term as an "embargo."
I am told that such arrangements continue to this day, although having been burned by the knights of the keyboard on more than one occasion, I'm skeptical of their efficacy. But, let's pretend that there are still instances in which a source can get a newsperson to agree to some kind of embargo. Since ignoring such an agreement will likely burn a source, the newsers warily acquiesce, even though every fiber of their eensy weensy little hearts drives them to want to scoop the competition.
Fine, but what the hell does any of that that have to do with a press, I mean news, release? Slugging the thing "For Immediate Release" is like saying "Hello, I'm a human" every time you meet someone on the street. News releases are not tips from confidential sources, leaks from insiders pursuing their own agendas, or bombshells from disaffected whistle blowers. They're nothing more than limp, stupid, tree killing, electron wasting, brain cell eating, non-news emitting, dumbass little news releases.
News releases sometimes, accidentally, might actually contain something almost resembling news, albeit couched in sentences tortured by committees and then cleaned, dried, and rendered completely devoid of life by the legal department. But the pretense that we flacks have generously waived the need for an embargo, magnanimously granting the media the right to "release" the news to the world whenever they fancy is ridiculous. So stop it, OK?
One final rant and I'm done for now: How can we get into the tiny little minds of our senior executives and explain to them that no one is interested in covering a "news conference" in which they will announce something like their plan to donate a buck and a half to the United Way?
If you work for a more enlightened class of CEO, one who doesn't live in some kind of Front Page-ish dream world, I envy you. My planet is teeming with corporals of industry who fancy themselves as commanders in chief who have precious little time for journalists' tiresome requests for individual interviews. (As if!)
They picture themselves standing at a podium in a room full of guys with cards that say "Press" sticking out of the headbands of their fedoras, each vying to be heard over the din, with flash bulbs firing off every half-second.
None of us PR pukes has the heart to tell them that reporters despise the entire dynamic of news conferences, no matter who is at the podium. And while they might tolerate such a thing from the President of the United States, they are not going to drag themselves over to your HQ to endure such a thing from your blowhard-in-chief. Unless, of course, he's on the griddle for, say, diddling someone he shouldn't have been diddling, or ducking responsibility for the deaths of thousands of schoolchildren.
If such an unfortunate situation ever presents itself to your company, I suggest you encourage Mr. Bigshot to hop into his horseless carriage and hie himself to the waterfront where he can board the next clipper ship bound for Cathay.