Horrifying Media Relations

I’m appalled, but unfortunately I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  PR Guru Peter Shankman posted a link yesterday on Facebook to a release with the following copy:

COULD A BEDSIDE SHOTGUN RACK HAVE SAVED JENNIFER HUDSON’S FAMILY FROM TRAGIC DEATH?

Chicago, IL (MMD Newswire) October 28, 2008 — Tragedy strikes in a Chicago home leaving 3 people dead and an Oscar winner forced to identify the bodies of her family.

Jennifer Hudson’s mother and brother were gunned down in their home Friday.  Could an invaluable device have saved their lives?  It’s called The BackUp and it is a bedside shotgun rack.

Nevermind that the murders took place at the front door and a shotgun in the bedroom wouldn’t have done any good at all.  The pitch is horrifically offensive.  If you’re a PR person reading this blog — please don’t do this.

Zogby Poll has Big Impact on Media Relations and Social Media

A new Zogby poll came out late last week and it has serious ramifications for media relations practitioners and for those who create social media. Since I do both, I’m particularly interested. The research found the following:

  • The Internet is now the top source of news for 48% of Americans
  • Two-thirds (67%) say traditional journalists are “out of touch”
  • A large majority (86%) of Americans said websites are an important source of news

This should point out to all public relations professionals once and for all that we CANNOT ignore the web. If we push our client news only to traditional media, we’re missing a large portion of the client’s potential customers.

For producers of social media like podcasts, blogs, and news sites, this is extremely encouraging. It shows that the “open source” nature of online news is working.

Read more from Zogby about the survey here.

Still Another Writer’s Strike

So, TV is getting back to normal and your favorite shows will hopefully come back on the air. But, a storm is brewing. It’s another writer’s strike! Aaaaaah!

CBS Allows Comments on All Candidates Except Obama

I just read over at Romanesko that CBSNews.com has made an unfortunate decision about comments on its online news pages. Apparently they’ve been experiencing an influx of racist comments on pages featuring stories about Democratic Presidential hopeful Barak Obama. As a result, CBS decided to turn off comments on all online stories about Obama. I can certainly understand the problem here. News organizations all over, in their rush to attempt to be social media sites, are having problems with hostile comments.

The issue I have with the decision is that they are leaving comments ON for ever other candidate. This creates a disparity in the free exchange of ideas. On CBS, at least, Obama becomes somewhat untouchable. I understand the network not wanting racist comments seen on their website, but in turning off the comments for Obama, they’ve not only eliminated the racist negativity but also the opportunity for people with legitimate gripes on his political stances to be heard.

Here’s an excerpt from a post about this on the CBS blog Public Eye:

CBSNews.com does sometimes delete comments on an individual basis, but Mike Sims, director of News and Operations for CBSNews.com, said that was not sufficient in the case of Obama stories due to “the volume and the persistence” of the objectionable comments.

CBSNews.com has no plans to disable comments on stories about the other presidential candidates, according to Sims. As for comments on Obama stories, he said the site is open to eventually bringing them back.

“We’d like to be able to return to them, and I’m not ruling that out,” said Sims. “But at this point it’s not possible.”

The logical thing to do, if they don’t have the resources to screen every comment for racism, would be to eliminate all comments about every presidential candidate. All they’ve done here, I think, is opened themselves up to screams of media bias.

The amusing part about this is that the comments on the Public Eye blog post have now turned into a shouting match about Republicans causing the problem because they’re all racists. Way to discuss the issues, people.

Topix Reinvents Itself to Become a Social News Site

An announcement from online news site Topix today that it’s reinventing itself to become something of a user-driven social news site. They’ve opened what they call “virtual news bureaus” in cities across the U.S., and are inviting users to submit local news stories. With 10-million monthly unique visitors, Topix is one of the top 25 news sites on the web (according to Hitwise), so this is a major announcement. Previously the only way to get an article or news release on the site was to have your news feed automatically picked up by Topix (I tried .. no one answered my email requests) or pay a news distribution service like PRWeb that feeds into the site.

According to the news release (PDF format) published today by Topix…

Topix, the largest news community on the Web, today unveiled a new site that gives its established community of millions the power to find, report and edit local news. Topix’s pioneering platform addresses the pent-up demand for local news in towns and cities across the country where traditional news media alone can’t cover enough of the hyper-local events and issues that matter most to neighbors.

The company is also moving its site from Topix.net to Topix.com. The purchase of the .com domain reportedly cost $1 million.

Under the redesign, the national news on the front page is gone. Instead, you’re invited to enter your zip code so you can see news from your area. Users are now able to submit news under their own zip code via an online form or even via cell phone. Many zip codes will have their own human editor, who will gather news for the page they manage. Zip codes without an editor will be refreshed with local news via RSS feeds from online news sources. Each local news page will have the look and feel of a blog, with newest items up top. Comments on the news can be made on the site’s message boards.

ZDNet’s Donna Bogatin has interesting insight on the reasons for the change, saying Topix CEO Rich Skrenta was concerned that his site was becoming simply an extension of Google. In other words, people would find news on his site via search engine, and when they got to Topix it didn’t look much different than a search engine. He wanted to change that by making the site more unique.

In the end, what this means for media relations and SEO PR professionals is that there’s one more quality place to easily post news releases, and it actually has visitors. I’ve always been a fan of the treatment that Topix has given to my PRWeb and PR Newswire releases, and I’m thrilled that it will be easier to access. I’m concerned, however, that it will end up becoming a repository for crappy news releases. It will be interesting to see how much editing these human editors actually do.

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