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 Everett True

What PR people really think of journalists – a music critic responds

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lazy baby at laptop

This is gold. Respect to the original writer (who isn’t the one everyone’s linking to, incidentally – but that’s the way the Internet works, right?).

This list comes via The Techsploder, which picked up on an inspired comment from ‘Pitch Man’ on Ten Biggest PR Blunders of 2011 – which is an OK post in itself, but lacks the sheer venom and insight of its respondent:

10 Nightmarish Behaviors PR People Hate About Journalists
We Stopped at 10, but We Could Go On (And On)

1. You lack common courtesy: You agree to attend our event. You even RSVP and confirm by phone, but at the last minute you call to cancel citing some bullshit personal reason. Normally we wouldn’t get too worked up about it, but in this instance we invited you to an event with very limited availability and you screwed another more deserving journalist out of attending.

Bangs knows, this must be irritating. There again, I’ve known PRs and record labels to put music critics’ names on the guest list without telling them, simply so that when the band asks they can say, “Look! We asked all these people AND they promised to come: what bastards for not telling us they won’t be showing up, etc etc”.

2. Your laziness knows no bounds: Despite the fact that we spoon feed you story ideas and basically do your job for you, you still get the facts wrong. You ask us to fact check your work, which we do, but we still have to call and correct your sloppy reporting. Like the time you quoted the wrong spokesperson in your story.

Yes. Absolutely. When I lived in Melbourne, back in 1999, and was looking for a little paid work, a friend suggested that I should write a biography for an upcoming band. They could swing a few hundred dollars to compensate me for my time. (I rarely do this sort of thing, incidentally: it seems way too much of a compromise of my integrity, and also I easily prefer writing sleeve notes.) So I agreed, under the condition that the entire press release was written as a series of quotes from the band. “Most people writing about bands,” I explained, “Don’t bother looking further than the press release for their information – on the sound, on biographical details, on everything. You can lie as much as you want in there. They’ll never know. So put in a series of quotes, and then they can look like they’ve even done some research by lifting same.” The same holds true today, even in this age of Wikipedia … although some of the more daring people writing about music will go as far as to read that, and quite possibly the MySpace/SoundCloud/Facebook page too.

3. You work at a crappy trade rag (blog): You had big dreams when you got out of j-school. You were going to do something really big. But this is how it turned out. So please wake-up sunshine, you’re not working for the New York Times or The Economist. Your job is to cover our clients’ news. So respond to our e-mails, pick-up your phone, and return our phone calls.

Arrogant, but funny. And spot-on, mostly. The job of a journalist is NOT to cover the PR client’s news, however. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be browbeaten by the fact the industry has you by the crotch. If they won’t let go of your crotch, have nothing to do with them or find another profession. There’s nothing wrong with a little common courtesy, but there again: what about all those unsolicited emails and contacts you receive from PR firms and record labels and bands who don’t have the first idea what you do, and don’t even pay you the courtesy of addressing the email individually?

4. You don’t play by the rules: You insist on playing the big shot. You think you can ignore the standards of journalism that have served your trade well for centuries. You can’t. It makes you look like a buffoon. Respect your word. This includes honoring embargoes and keeping things we tell you on background out of your story. You don’t get a pass.

Yeah well. All PRs hate a journalist or critic who doesn’t abide by THEIR rules. What this PR is really referring to here is the rules of PR when applied to journalists: if these journalists were halfway worthy of their job description they wouldn’t be taking their news stories from a PR anyway. The point about “respect your word” is well-made, but respect runs both ways. PRs should understand critics and journalists aren’t simply an underpaid extension of their own company.

5. You’re a stenographer: You call yourself a journalist, but what you really are is a tired hack who re-writes the press materials we send you and pass it off as your own work. It’s fine. We love seeing our writing in your publication, but don’t get pissy when we want you to fix something you got wrong. No, we’re not going to fuel your SEO campaign by posting comments to your blog or your publication’s web site.

Brilliant. See point 2 above. Brilliant. This must be really fucking frustrating for most halfway competent PRs. There again, most halfway competent PRs get paid more than most halfway competent music ‘journalists’ so I guess it works out in the end.

6. You’re creepy: We invite you out to drinks after work, not because we really want to spend time with you, but because we know you like the sauce. Our younger female staffers, the ones you’re ogling and pawing at our media mixer, don’t really want to spend time with you either. They’re just here in hopes that you’ll return their phone calls and e-mails and not because they find you attractive and want to sleep you—eeeeww! Don’t be that guy who IM’s them the next day. That really creeps them out. Stop it.

I love this. The PR firm uses flirting as a legitimate device to help place stories, and then cries foul when the poor confused journalist doesn’t know when to stop. Genius. Total hypocrisy but genius.

You can find the rest of the list here, and here.

5 Responses to What PR people really think of journalists – a music critic responds

  1. Ricky Dobbs January 18, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    “I love this. The PR firm uses flirting as a legitimate device to help place stories, and then cries foul when the poor confused journalist doesn’t know when to stop. Genius. Total hypocrisy but genius.”

    er, rapist alert?

  2. Princess Stomper January 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    “They could swing a few hundred dollars to compensate me for my time”

    A few HUNDRED? Wow! I used to write press releases for £30 and a couple of beers!

    Also, the person who refused to return ANY calls was a PR agent where I did work experience. I’m one of those pick-up-any-phone-in-three-rings type people, so I found that pretty shocking.

    Where did all this hate come from? Back in my day *creak* the PRs were my friends.

  3. Princess Stomper January 19, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    One point should be made, though, and very clearly: if I don’t reply to a mailout, which I usually don’t, it’s either because I haven’t got around to hearing it yet (yes, there are a LOT of emails!) or because I’m too polite to say that I think that it sucks.

  4. Joseph kyle January 20, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Have you seen this, Everett? What say you? http://www.hipsterrunoff.com/altreport/2012/01/lana-del-rey-thought-catalog-publicist-conspiracy-post-removal.html

  5. Erika January 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Woah… I spoke too soon. The Pitchfork Wipers article
    http://pitchfork.com/features/underscore/8751-wipers/
    contains inaccuracies, stuff gathered from old articles and passed off, unreferenced, as fact, and was written by a guy who has once already been in trouble for fabrication.

    1. Editor’s Note: What Happened to That Cover Story?
    http://www.villagevoice.com/2006-02-28/news/editor-s-note-what-happened-to-that-cover-story/

    2. Village Voice Writer Caught Making Up Stuff
    http://gothamist.com/2006/03/02/village_voice_w.php

    3. Nick Sylvester Forced to Quit Pitchfork
    http://gothamist.com/2006/03/03/nick_sylvester.php

    Also, Sylvester says that it is Pitchfork, not him, who links to lots of unofficial content, to Pitchfork pages, to Sub Pop Records, and twice to the Sylvester’s band site, but NOT ONCE to the official Wipers site where the celebrated artist sells his own music on his own terms.

    Sorry, looks like Pitchfork still sucks.

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