Free but not easy
The sheer amount of email that lands in my in-box on any given day is, by necessity, broken down into subcategories that make it easier to deal with. Newswire feeds are quickly scanned for relevance and newsworthiness before either being followed-up on, deleted, or filed for future reference. Community based, non-profit, and charity fundraising events in the region are slotted for the Things to See & Do page. I even have an ongoing file for the Nigerian prince who keeps emailing insisting he has the equivalent of almost $500,000 in Canadian funds in a secret bank account for me.
It makes my day to get letters to the editor, submissions for YLJ Around the world, or reader feedback of any sort. Good or bad, bring it on.
But the email most likely to elicit a sneer and an involuntary eye-twitch is the one from any large institution that is either for-profit or paid for by your tax dollars and mine – those who assume we’ll be happy to publish their communiqué free of charge thereby defraying any of their publicity budget and us giving away editorial spots that others, mostly independent retailers in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges and West Island areas – have paid for.
Yes, I’ve written about this before but some rants bear revisiting.
I deleted a recent request for a healthcare facility that had submitted a mass-mailing to every media outlet on their contact list, advising which clinics would be closed for an upcoming holiday weekend. I guess it was the proverbial straw that snapped some camel’s back because a subsequent response from an independent French radio station – also forwarded to every media contact - was pointed in its brusque rejection.
“We will not broadcast your communiqué,” read the response. “We don’t do ‘freebies.’ Our radio station exists by the grace of our advertisers and all our employees are paid professionals…. We invite you to communicate with our advertising department for our rates.”
Their signoff proudly displayed their private, commercial, and independent status.
We’re always happy to showcase sports achievements by youth in the region, support initiatives that promote education, and give a platform to the best of our abilities for everything from art, to film, to wild bird rehabilitation. But doing the communication bidding of government-funded agencies or prestigious ivy-covered brownstone universities – and don’t even get me started about banks – does not fall under the guise of community news.
If the Publicity Directors, Communication Officers, and Public Relation firm employees are willing to forego their own grocery bills, utility bills, and mortgage payments and work for free, maybe then they’d be justified in asking us to promote their causes with editorial content, printing, and distribution costs. Somehow, I doubt it.
Until then, it’s our job to bring you news in the region and though it might make everyone’s lives easier, our journalists are not willing to sit for hours at area council meetings or in courtrooms, chase down elected representatives, lawyers, and witnesses, document the entire exchange, take photos, and disseminate the information in both hard and soft copy without getting paid. This, dear PR people, is how our business functions.
If you expect news to magically materialize free of charge while you cash your own weekly paycheque then be careful; the quality of the news you’re likely to get will reflect exactly what you’re willing to pay for.