Press releases are not news articles

Published 27.03.2017 00:00

It is no secret that the inboxes of journalists are filled with mail from thousands of sources. Considering that even a regular user receives tons of mail whether wanted or unwanted, when it comes to having an email address that is open to the public and on a high-traffic site, such as a news website, filtering through this mail is an essential part of the daily routine. Notably, a sizable portion of this mail comes from various public relations companies or directly from foundations, businesses, activities and so forth.

These press releases, product promotions and event plans are another tool for journalists that spare us the effort of actually having to search for them ourselves. However, as the method became more widespread, journalists started to use them as a crutch rather than a useful tool.

There are a couple of reasons for this, of course, but the primary reason would be the increased demand for new news stories on news websites. Some newspapers introduced quotas for their web editors, as the reader base started to go through thousands of news stories in a single day while the printed version only needed to supply hundreds. The reliance on agency news articles was the immediate consequence, but we covered that extensively in our previous Reader's Corner articles.

This led editors to begin turning to press releases as the starting point for news articles. Cultural events, the responses and comments of organizations to certain events and so forth began to enter the daily news cycle. However, it didn't stop there.

Nowadays, it has become a common practice for editors to take a press release, then add or remove a couple of sentences and present them with their signatures to the newspaper. Some did not even bother to go that far, simply copying and pasting a press release with a headline and a spot.

PR agencies took note of this and provided texts more suitable for this kind of practice. Thus, journalists started to provide free advertisements straight from PR officials of different companies. Considering that media outlets are heavily influenced by one another, as long as one mainstream media source has published such PR texts, it meant that nearly all of them published as well even if they did not take it from a press release itself. After all, it now had the signature of a journalist.

Let's make one thing clear: Do not treat press releases coming from PR agencies, advertising companies or company communication officials as "news." Do not add your signature to these pieces of information and present them as news articles that belong to you. This is not only unethical for your readers but also your newspaper, as you rob it of advertising revenue, while tricking them with the presumption of original content. All the while your readers come to your news articles to find actual news not advertisements or the views of a single organization without any critical thinking or right to reply. News websites are filled with enough advertisements as it is.

While this has been a recurring problem in the Turkish media at large, Daily Sabah has been largely free of it so far. Let's keep it that way.

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