The Matzav Rant: The “Press Release Syndrome”

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press-releaseBy Shmuel Miskin

A recent flap over the alleged endorsement of a political candidate which turned out to be fabricatedconfirmed some feelings of mine that I have shared with a number of people involved in askanus.

We have been sucked into the “press release” mentality, where we are inundated with countless press releases issued by organizations and others – even individuals – who seek to get their message or stance out to the public. These press releases are then published all over – in print, online, wherever. Often, or perhaps most of the time, press releases are published as is, the way they were released, with little to no editing or fact-checking.

This has always bothered me personally, though it has not troubled me as much as the fact that the “press release syndrome” has degenerated into a rat race for who can release the first statement – a statement which of course pumps one’s own agenda and people – following an event, a press conference, or a politician’s remarks.

Let me give you a case in point shared with me earlier this week by Elisha Ferber, the esteemed chief editor of Elisha and I met at a simcha in Boro Park attended by a number of askanim and communal activists. I shared my thoughts on the “press release syndrome” and Elisha told me the following. Recently, a number of representatives of Jewish organizations got together to accomplish something positive regarding a communal matter. No sooner had the mission been undertaken and one organization had already sent out a press release publicizing the involvement of that organization’s representative in this specific effort. Elisha told me that he sent an email to a representative of the organization.

“I told them that, firstly, their press release headline was blatantly self congratulating,” said Elisha. “While I understand that this was an organizational press release, I said, some perspective is in order. This should not be race for who can get out the first press release or which organization can first take credit for having a representative involved or present. The focus should be on helping the need at hand or addressing the concern being dealt with. Self congratulating press releases and write-ups have no place in efforts that should be focused on the communal matter at the time,” Elisha wrote.

It has indeed become commonplace for Jewish organizational press releases to sound more like those released by political candidates and elected officials. From the latter, we don’t expect much more. After all, a politician or political candidate will always be looking to promote himself. This is why checking out the facts before publishing a release the way it was sent out, verbatim, is so important. Why would anyone trust what is written at face value? From organizations, we would expect some even-handedness.

Elisha told me briefly that the organizational representative responded that the releases reflect each organization’s involvement and it is up to each media outlet to combine content from the various releases and create their own article. However, as we’ve seen, that rarely, if ever, happens. Instead, media outlets just print what their sent exactly the way they get it.

But there is another issue here. It seems that the media catering to our communities is so preoccupied with filling pages and publishing material, online or in print, and press releases have become a convenient way to do so. If the release is not reviewed or analyzed for content, style and accuracy, those in the Jewish media are making a gross error and insulting the intelligence of their readers.

Just because a press release may claim that someone or something is “the largest,” “the most prominent,” or “endorsed by” does not mean that that is the case. Remember: Everyone has their own agenda. Press releases should not be portrayed or reported as news unless their content is reviewed and edited.

Print publications have been slightly better about this, because printing costs money and more attention is paid to what is published. Online, however, things have gone haywire. Everything and anything is deemed worthy of publication, and it has become virtually impossible to discern what is pure and what is adulterated, what is objective and what is skewed. It has become commonplace to confuse company and organizational releases with real news stories. A press release will often be slanted or agenda-driven. It is time to realize this reality and for all those in the reporting field to take note of this in order to prevent false claims of endorsements or accomplishments and to save readers from having to injest the self congratulatory fluff that is so often the makeup of press releases.

{Shmuel Newscenter}


  1. I agree with everything stated here. BUt how can we blame the organizations? if websites etc. are printing their junk, why should they stop?

  2. you say that it is better in print because printing costs money? Give me a break. it is no better in print. especially the local rags that come in the mail. the just print all the free junk they get. and they have all the stupid political speeches, state of the union, state of the state and anything they can get for free. and we the dumb people keep looking at it. we are at fault.

  3. What is a press release?
    A press release is pseudo-news story, written in third person, that seeks to demonstrate to an editor or reporter the newsworthiness of a particular person, event, service or product.

  4. More:

    A press release, news release, media release, or press statement is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something claimed as having news value. Typically, they are mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to assignment editors at newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations, and/or television networks. Commercial press-release distribution services are also used to distribute them.

    The use of a press release is common in the field of public relations, the aim of which is to attract favorable media attention to public relations professional’s client and/or provide publicity for products or events marketed by those clients. A press release provides reporters with the basics they need to develop a news story. Press releases can announce a range of news items such as: scheduled events, personal promotions, awards, news products and services, sales and other financial data, accomplishments, etc. They are often used in generating a feature story or are sent for the purpose of announcing news conferences, upcoming events or change in corporation.

    A press statement is information supplied to reporters. This is an official statement or account of a news story that is specially prepared and issued to newspapers and other news media for them to make known to the public.

  5. bottom line: everyone is out for themselves, looking to push their own things and agenda. it is all about kavod, money and influence, and the fools who print this junk are just that: fools.

  6. #4 why are you sick? What is with the anger? Shmuel Miskin is making some good points which I mostly agree with. Many times we all see through a story and those that do are able to do so because we have acquired some media savvy. But sick? It seems to me that you have a greater (anger) predisposition to hating the establishment organizations and their efforts- and your anger is really directed at them. Why that is should be discussed with a professional but as for YOUR press release today stating that your “sick”, it would be meaningful and carry greater weight if only you signed your name. When an organization sends a press release to a media source, they clearly identify who and what is making the statement.The media can choose to print it or not. For Mr. Mishkin of this article or the Matzav editor to now question the hand that feeds them is ironic. Unless a web site has intrepid reporters on the payroll going out and finding the scoop, most stories are based on unsubstantiated gossip, hock, and heresay. Organizations specifically send out press releases to set the record straight in a responsible professional way. Is there a self -congratulatory spin to them, sure. It is the way it goes as organizations look to inspire supporters with their victories and successes. Is uit the right thing to do? Ask the experts.
    What is truly sickening #4 is posting you anger and invective while hiding behind your screen name while casting dispersions on those who have the guts to sign theirs, even if the might be taking deserved or undeserved credit. Your anger and Sinas Chinum sadly make me sick.

    Chaim Weiss
    Brooklyn NY

  7. is this editoral about organizations or about politics? i for one think organizations should send out press releases as quite offten as possable. i would like to see where my money is going to. but i guess the people that dont want the press releases are those who dont part with theirs and have some issue when they see the money is going to good places and their not a partner in it.

    but if we are talking about politics over there i have to agree, websites should do more before sending out press releases about politics. they MUST make sure that its not one sided! and if they happen to have a political figure on their payroll they should at least make sure the readers know that and are aware before reading…

    Maztzav thanks for bringing this to peoples att..


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