Tom Foremski: “journalist’s spin”

As I work on my presentation for Friday’s Delivering the New PR conference I’m listening to the For Immediate Release interview with Tom Foremski of SiliconValleyWatcher. It’s a very good interview.

They are discussing Tom’s post about Die Press Release! Die! Die! Die!. The quote that made me stop was “you’re never going to use the spin from the press release. The spin comes from the journalist, it comes from me, I put in my spin in the first couple of paragraphs of the story…”

A refreshing admission that it isn’t just about providing a balanced, factual account but that news stories are spun by journalists.

But you’d be very wrong to put too much faith in what Tom says. You see he is talking from his perspective. And as an ex-Financial Times journalist and he writes about technology and business in Silicon Valley. It’s a pretty rarefied perspective. In the real world that most journalists and PR people work then things are a bit different. I said as much at the time and so did Bitemarks who said that Tom was on the “proverbial bleeding edge. Until the rest of the world, and the rest of the sol-called mainstream media catch-up, things aren’t likely to change anytime soon”.

In the rest of the world news releases still work. Hundreds of professional, business and trade journals, consumer magazines and regional newspapers absolutely depend on news releases. Note NEWS releases, not press releases. And sometimes they re-write it beyond recognition (and even introduce mistakes that weren’t in the original release) but often they just use it. Either all of it or an edited version. It it’s a well-written release, in the style of the publication you are targeting, then the journalist should be able to edit simply by deleting the paragraphs at the end.

Secondly “spin” isn’t the great evil that it is made out to be. It’s a bit like the windows on Playschool when I was a child . You as a PR want to encourage people to look through one window, your competitors want them to look through another, and journalists might want yet another. What’s in the room remains the same but you can get different views of it.

Spin is too often used to mean lies. Lies are wrong. Spin isn’t.

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