Sunday, July 15, 2012

Press Release Journalism Vs. Journalism

I get press releases from L.A. County politicos all of the time. I never use them because, let's face it, this just isn't that kind of blog. Our approach being just a little bit different from the other self-styled news outlets in town. To put it succinctly, we attempt to kick what certain other people kiss. It's one of those jobs that somebody has got to do. Fortunately we enjoy the work.

One of the politicians that always sends his press releases to me is Bob Huff. I receive the same stuff from him that Patch and the News Net Rooster get. And I can tell you, there isn't much that Ed Roski Jr.'s messenger boy puts out that those two sites don't print like it is the real news. However, it is not. Rather Bob supplies them with press releases that those lazy editors can slap up on their sites to make it look like they have an important stories about Bob to offer. Stuff that in reality is little more than political propaganda.

Of course, State Senator Huff is hardly the only major sway governmental figure to exploit the easy access offered by less discriminating news sites. Here is an example. Last Friday the Sierra Madre Patch posted a puff piece entitled "Sheriff's Department Destroys 8,000 Confiscated Guns." This was taken from a press release put out by Sheriff Lee "Chew" Baca's office designed to make the fellow look like he is doing some superior work in the never ending fight against crime. The message here being Lee Baca is taking the guns off the streets.

Here is what the Patch posted:

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announced Thursday the destruction of more than 8,000 weapons confiscated from criminals in Los Angeles County.

Annually, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works transport the weapons to Gerdau Steel Mill, a Rancho Cucamonga company that donates its furnace, equipment and personnel to convert the guns into steel rebar, according to a Los Angeles Sheriff's Department press release.

Dubbed "Project Isaiah," the annual gun destruction gets its name from the Biblical passage in the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 2:4) that calls for swords to be beaten into plowshares as a way of bringing peace.

"These weapons that you see here will never again be used to commit a crime or used to threaten or intimidate an innocent victim," Baca said in a prepared statement.

Now don't get me wrong, this is all fine work on Baca's part. And protecting innocent victims is a worthy thing. Heck, even protecting guilty victims is OK. But honestly, what is the big deal here? Cops have been taking firearms away from crooks and other assorted bad guys ever since guns were invented. Why is Baca making such a big occasion out of something that in normal parlance is called "doing his job?"

The answer is Lee Baca has a pressing need to get some positive news about himself out there. The reason being that he is now embroiled in a rather serious scandal. And obviously Baca sees a benefit in presenting a sunny picture of himself to those innocent souls who read things like The Patch, and think they are getting the entire story. Which, of course, they are not.

This from the Associated Press (click here):

LA Sheriff faces mounting legal challenges: Jail commanders condoning the beating of inmates. Evidence withheld from inmates accused of attacking guards. A photo of a woman wearing an official-looking badge while brandishing handcuffs at a nightclub.

Allegations and litigation continue to dog Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who has acknowledged being out of touch about problems in his jails and failing to reform his massive department that oversees the largest county jail system in the nation.

Bad news in the past week has come from his own brass, his chief critics and a photo that surfaced in an unrelated federal investigation - all serving to sully the reputation of the popular four-term sheriff, who enjoys the limelight and is flown around the world at the invitation of others to talk about policing tactics.

(Later ...)

The host of problems facing Baca's department is similar to what the Los Angeles Police Department had to cope with in the wake of the Rodney King beating and the Rampart corruption scandal, (Peter) Eliasberg (of the ACLU) said. Under the leadership of former LAPD Chief William Bratton and a decade-long federal consent decree, LAPD emerged as a better policing agency.

So there you go. As always, you often need to consider more than one source for your information. Choose your news sources wisely, and even then use a discriminating eye. Often what you are seeing is not the entire picture. And who knows, you might be reading nothing more than a press release.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

30 comments:

  1. Printing a press release as "news" is just doing PR work for free as if it was a public service announcement. Just adds to the overall flavor of the vanity newsletter that these "newslettes" are.

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  2. Press releases are always good news, and good news is civil. Why does everything have to be true? Can't we have positive news instead?

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  3. The Truth Shouldn't HurtJuly 15, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    Thank you Tattler for showing us there are more than one side to every story. You just wish more people would except the truth and stop their lying.

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  4. So I guess it is safe to say that the Patch won't be winning any L.A. Press Club Awards for this Baca story.

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  5. I don't think those guys are being destroyed, I think they are finding their way into the fast and furious program, or some other insurrectionary country helped by the alphabet agencies.

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    1. This is just about the most ignorant thing I have ever read...

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  6. Please Fix a TypoJuly 15, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    8:25 here, should read The Truth Shouldn't Hurt.

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  7. Most of those guns are probably in pawn shops now.

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  8. Press releases are not news. They are informercials with the product being feel good about an activity or group. They will always have a bias.

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    1. So much of what passes for news in Sierra Madre is just that.

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    2. There is only one source of 'news' in Sierra Madre, and you're reading it now.
      I have nothing against the other sites and the throw-aways. They're like junk food for the mind.
      But there hasn't been a real paper since Katina Dunn left town.
      That was a real loss.

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  9. Good news is civil? What means this?

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  10. Two sides to every story. Where did we hear this before? Ah, yes Bob Matheson himself. How about the Rashomon approach to what happened.

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    Replies
    1. Remember how Rashomon ends. Almost everyone is cowardly, selfish and behaves shamefully.

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  11. Thank you Lee Baca,

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    1. Whacking prisoners awaiting trial upside the head with a club, of course. If they weren't guilty, they wouldn't have been there.

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    2. I am sure there is a lot of rough justice and injustice in any prison anywhere. I've never been in a jail, but word gets out. Who hasn't heard of the rape that is constant, or put together the fact that guards must have a willingness to get violent if needed with the fact that humans go over the edge sometimes. Just have to try and screen out the sadists.

      Interesting, though, that prison populations, inmate and guard alike, would like to have a talk with Robert W Matheson.

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  12. Unfortunately press release journalism is the result of the many changes going on in the news industry. Young reporters are thrust into the fray with little to no guidance or training and are expected to meet an unrealistic quota which prevents their spending the time and energy needed to cover stories. They lack the time and resources to conduct any real investigation.

    Couple this with the fact that many of the very politicians and public agencies, who they are supposed to be reporting about, spend lots of money with the paper and work hard to shape any coverage and you have press release journalism.

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    1. The pressure placed on Patch editors by AOL to meet daily content quotas is brutal. Known as "content farming," it is a system where editors are graded more on the amount of articles they post, and not the quality. This leads to corner cutting and the use of press releases to fill quotas.

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    2. We have had our share of morally sketchy behavior by Patch editors, but they're not entirely stupid people.
      They can follow business news as well as the rest of us, so they know the days they'l be receiving a paycheck fro AOL are soon over. On the one hand this could give them an opportunity to focus on getting the truth out with a what the hell attitude; on the other hand, they might be scared of having to leave before the last paycheck is available.

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  13. I do believe the Tattler has found it's best tag line so far:
    "we attempt to kick what certain other people kiss"

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    Replies
    1. Pretty accurate. Probably explains why everybody now reads the Tattler. Nobody likes a "kiss what."

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  14. Press Release Journalism is too generous a term. How about Press Release Pimps?

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  15. It doesn't show much concern about the quality of the work being put out.

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  16. PSN Poll - Should the COG disband?
    350 voted yes
    66 voted no

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  17. The COG spends thousands on PR pieces. They have a former San Gabriel Valley Tribune employee who coordinates their propoganda. Take for example the day that King took his City of Walnut out of COG. The COG put out a blast by gasbag Barbara Messsina that the COG was valuable addressing all of the Sacramento mandates that cities could not afford. Yeah, pay CONway $750,000 and his three students will work on your mandate. Real cost effective, huh?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for that information, 6:58.
      Figures.

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