”I wish people would stop attributing all manner of quotes to me, whether I said them or not, as a handy substitute for well-constructed arguments on Facebook and Twitter.” — George Orwell, probably, were he alive today to say it.
George did not, of course, say that. And it’s come to my attention he may very well never have said this either, despite widespread attribution:
”Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”
What a perfect summary. Consensus seems to be: maybe Orwell said it, maybe William Randolph Hearst said it, maybe we should slap “anonymous adage” on there and move along.
This week brought a change. I’m not on our “police beat” anymore. As the new overseer of our Saturday business and health pages, it’s become clear to me that I severely underestimated the vigor of our business community, but I’ll get to that in a moment...
When you “cast a net” seeking crime news, you haul it back in to find maybe a gross carp and a few sad-looking shrimp rolling around in there. These are among the stories people, particularly the subjects of said stories, would rather not be told. Some have news value, others don’t, and it’s our job to sort that out and report accordingly. Yet journalists are almost universally taught THIS grim and unceremonious “anonymous adage”: If it bleeds, it leads.
Gross, right? I always saw it as, simultaneously, a dictum and a condemnation of the media, but the truth is, the macabre mantra only highlights the already-existing market and their statistically demonstrated appetite for the...truly unfortunate.
Eternal optimist that I am (ha!), I decided to use this new assignment as an opportunity to dredge up some good news, inspiring stories from our business and health communities...and of course, now and again, the ones someone doesn’t want written, too.
Were I to call or email 36 law-enforcement-adjacent individuals and ask them for the news of the day, I would likely come up with very little. It’s not that very little happened, necessarily, but their goals are different, and I appreciate that.
Now, were I to call or email 36 people involved in business, economic development, corporate public relations, etc., soliciting the same thing, the result would be...different. Drastically different. I-still-haven’t-sorted-through-a-fraction-of-it different.
We’ve got barbecues and business after-hours events, new-staff announcements and impending groundbreaking ceremonies, camps, luncheons, banquets, fundraisers, award ceremonies... When I pulled in this particular net, all I could do was laugh — then get to work.
I’ve entered a new realm here, one where people actually want to interact with me, and it’s invigorating! That we compile and present this sort of information, hyper-local goings on, is a critical function of any community news outlet — I plan to work diligently at this.
But there’s a bug in my ear, one that may or may not have been inspired by George Orwell to fly inside there and go, ”Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed.”
So bring it on, ladies and gents of PR. I’m ready for you, and looking forward to forming all sorts of new, positive working relationships. But someday, I’m going to call you with a real question, the answer to which you may not want printed. Our goals are different. And you’re not in Bora Bora, so don’t try it...