When you sit in my seat, you see press release after press release from equipment and software vendors, research organization, societies, organizations and trade groups.
Sometimes they never see the light of day. Sometimes they get condensed and posted, and occasionally they are interesting enough to pursue for a full-fledged story.
Every once in a while, especially around big events like the political conventions, the Olympics, Super Bowl and other major TV events, one will come in that is written in such a way as to hide the “who” of the story.
What do I mean by the “who?” You know, the “who” of the old who, what, where, when, why and how of day-in, day-out journalism.
And why would the “who” be hidden? I can’t say for sure in every instance, but many times the “who” makes anonymity a condition of allowing a vendor write the press release in the first place. The “who” simply doesn’t want to be seen as endorsing one vendor’s equipment or software over another’s.
So I get press releases that say something like this:
FOR-A Corporation of America today announced that a highly acclaimed major television network installed four new ? Processors to feed an impressively large video wall display comprised of several monitors in a studio, which was recently designed specifically for the U.S. Presidential Election Coverage, which began this week with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
A “highly acclaimed major television network” did that.
Now I know, have on two occasions worked for the same publishing company as and am friends with FOR-A’s marketing manager, who sent me this press release. I haven’t talked to her about this, but I know she’s not making this up. It really did happen. A major network is using the FA-505 processors.
And I think this is important to report because of what the second paragraph says:
… the FA-505s are being used to feed the in studio monitors of the video wall looking for a 1080p source. Because the network facility uses 1080i as their standard format, the monitors need to be converted from 1080i to 1080p (HD to 3G) for better image quality with no degradation.
I look at a press release like this, and think, “Hey, that’s important to report because some other broadcaster might be facing a similar situation and need an idea.”
I understand that the “highly acclaimed major television network” has its reasons for wanting anonymity. I understand my friend at FOR-A wants to get the word out about the use of the FA-505s, even if it means putting out a press release that masks one of the fundamental Five Ws.
But what about me? Should I start calling FOX, CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS to find which is the “highly acclaimed major television network?” Would they even tell me? And, what other story would I not be writing or reporting while I was doing that?
Please understand, I am not picking on FOR-A or my friend. Just last week I received a similar sort of press release missing the “who” from Dielectric, but at least that time it was simple to track down because of bread crumbs contained within.
This sort of thing happens more than you might think, and with the Olympics set to start in weeks, there will be many more of these sorts of releases.
It gets so crazy at times that in past roles with other publishers I have had vendors beg me to remove the name of a piece of equipment or their company from an item I ran that caught the eye of the powers that be at the Olympics. Once they realized they hadn’t authorized the release of the information, the vendors got their knuckles smacked.
I’ve even had companies at industry gatherings like NAB and IBC tell me that before pictures inside a production or engineering space at the Olympics could be taken, masking tape had to be placed over the logos of gear from companies that weren’t official sponsors of the games. That’s how wild this can get at times.
So, what am I supposed to do with all of this? Should I simply ignore anything that doesn’t come in with the most fundamental part of a story, like “who?” Tracking those fundamentals down myself many times won’t be practical. Or, should I condense, rewrite and publish a piece missing, for example, the “who,” with the understanding that some other piece of information in an abbreviated release could be helpful to you the reader?
I really don’t know, and I’m interested in your thoughts. If you have a minute, drop me a line with your opinion.