Thursday, July 05, 2012

Ethics | Copying a press release spurs a lawsuit

Last week, The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tenn., published a bank's press release word-for-word as a story -- even going so far as to slap a byline on the article.

Now a former Kansas City Star reporter has sued the McClatchy newspaper, saying he was unfairly fired for copying portions of releases into his columns.

Poynter Online, which reported the suit, is surveying readers on whether it's OK to use press release material in stories. Of the nearly 200 responses so far, a majority -- 52% -- say it's OK -- if it's attributed to the original source. Read Poynter's post to take the survey, or to see the rest of the results.


  1. Everything I include in a news release I would like to see in the media.

    While I think it would be nice to have it attributed to where it came from, as a marketers I want the information published. Now, as a consumer especially I'd appreciate if the source is identified.

  2. Well said, and from the horse's mouth.

  3. First of all some context:
    If you are writing a "brief" or community announcement, 99% of those come from press releases-it's an event listing and to say its from a release would literally means throwing out some piece of information (that's why they call it a brief)
    On the news side, the press release and the e-mailed statement is how a lot of government does business today, so basically the information in that release is going to wind up in the paper in one form or another. Most flacks will send you back to the release when you call looking for additional comment. Follow questions? good luck. I have emailed and followed up with phone calls with factual questions-with no response beyond the e mailed statement, which is duly noted in the article.
    Bottom line, when information comes from a press release, letter or memo, I say that in the story. To say that is plagiarism to quote information from the release is really splitting hairs. It is simple another information source, same as info gathered at a press conference, a public meeting or in a one on one interview.
    How is it different if the same official quoted in the release stands at a podium and reads said release verbatim to a room full of reporters? Is it magically, suddenly "not" plagiarism? The only difference is the delivery method.
    We have far more serious problems in the business than this, like coming up with a digital business plan to insure the survival of the industry


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