Monday, May 11, 2009

Today's pot-kettle read, and I get smudged

I've written some about this issue and haven't written some, but in essence there is continuing hand-wringing in the newspaper industry as they work to develop a new monetization model. Part of the hand-wringing has been attacks on services such as Google and bloggers such as myself who dare to quote six or more words from a newspaper article and then link to it.

This also ties in to the idea of noble journalists and lazy bloggers, the latter of whom are guilty of either printing stuff without investigating it, or outright stealing content from someone who has investigated it. Don't trust the blogs; better to trust the serious journalist, properly trained and guided by superior ethics.

Duncan Riley had a little bit of fun with the latter notion in this post, and because Riley is not a member of the Associated Press, I'm going to quote more than six, or five, or four words from it.

Dear Editor

The parasitic nature of newspapers continues to confound most reasonable public relations (PR) professionals. Here we have an industry that by its very nature trades off the hard work of the PR industry, passing off our hard work as news, even when we don’t ask them to.

Some 80 per cent of news stories in the quality UK national newspapers are at least partly made up of recycled newswire or PR copy, according to research released in February. In Australia the figure is “as much as 80 per cent of media content is derived from public relations material” according to a May 2009 report.

This has to stop. The livelihoods of PR professionals across the globe are under threat by a parasitic newspaper industry that rarely links, and often copies our work.

This content is available on sites such as PR Web, and often on the pages of our clients. Why then must the likes of News Corp, the NY Times Company, or other newspaper groups steal our good work?

The future of PR is undoubtedly online: the distributed media release has had its day; resource-wasteful, expensive to produce and distribute and dated. We should charge for access, and slap copyrights even on a short extract (fair use and fair dealing laws mean nothing to our lawyers) because we are the originators of news, and we alone hold the eminent rights to it.

That we could do something as simple as exclude indexing by newspaper sites by one line in a Robots.txt file, or a general IP block for newspaper companies is besides the point: just because we could block access doesn’t mean that we should do so now.

I implore President Obama and others to think not only of the newspaper industry at this time of need, but of the PR professionals that have their work stolen en masse by greedy parasitic journalists.

Yours sincerely
PR Pro.

Be sure to read the rest of Riley's Inquisitr post, which includes not only a further discussion of his views on the topic, but also a link to something that inspired him to write his tongue-in-cheek letter.

To be fair, I should also note (as I have already noted) that this issue of reprinting press releases without analysis does not only apply to journalists. I as a blogger have often resorted to the same tactic, providing little or no analysis of press releases that I reprint (not only in the items that you see, but also regarding some items behind a firewall that most of you will never see).

For a public example of this practice, take a look at this post to my Empoprise-NTN blog last Saturday; while the press release itself is merely an announcement of the date that earnings will be released, I made no effort to place this in context, describe the industry in which NTN Buzztime operates, or talk about the company's past performance.

So I myself cannot castigate journalists for the "regurgitate press release without analysis" practice when I do it myself.

(Just so my meaning is not misconstrued, I am not criticizing Riley for his post, since Riley does NOT engage in the regurgitation practice. Riley and his writers usually make an effort to place a piece of news in context. Take this Bigfoot post, which did run a press release, but provided explanatory information beforehand.)
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