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Cap J: The biz of BS

Don Rogers

Browsing the old-fashioned print newspaper has its advantages. One of those is serendipity. I often find myself straying into stories in sections I’d never otherwise read when I flip through a print edition.

This just doesn’t happen on the Web.

I found this nugget in the desert, in The Denver Post business section. The biz section for me is a quick flip through. I find these sections by turns boring and depressing. Boring because it’s, well, business. And depressing because I personally find focusing on commerce a sad way to live. Even if our livelihoods do depend on this nonsense.



But the headline on Al Lewis’ column caught my eye: “Isn’t PR a synonym for BS?” Not bad. I read on.

Lewis wrote about a seminar for public relations people about taking the BS out of PR. In a nutshell, Lewis reaches the conclusion that PR is BS, basically, and if you take the BS out, well, you have journalism, not PR. And so the notion that you can take the BS out of PR is BS itself.



And of course he’s right.

I’m just jealous, absolutely. PR people around here outnumber journalists at least 10 to one. They are paid better than journalists (well, just about everyone is, actually). Our own business people are much more in tune with the PR flaks than the killjoys in the newsroom. We’re outnumbered in our own office.

Not to run down PR people, mind you. Some of my best friends are PR people. Well, that’s not really true, but I am actually very fond of many of them.



They can be very helpful in lots of ways. The good ones help keep our calendars full, send photos from events we can’t get to, and alert us to news ” news that looks good for their organization, true, but legitimate just the same.

Just understand that they will not generally prove quite as helpful when the news might be deemed a negative for them. We’ll have to find that out on our own, and maybe wade through some “is that really a story?” resistance, spin or “no comment,” and complaining that the newsroom killjoys are just so negative about everything.

I don’t hold it against them. That’s the nature of the game. And sometimes they are right. The journalists have to be very centered, neither spun nor resistant beyond what’s truly reasonable. It’s just difficult to reach that point with PR flaks. Their job is to get their message out, and sometimes to keep information bottled ” not find the blunt, cold truth and report it straight as we can.

I guess what I’m saying is that our relationship is not symbiotic.

We’re difficult with each other. The PR people can help us extend our coverage beyond the bounds of our staffing. We certainly help the PR people by running much of their positive news, which we are happy to do. But we can frustrate them when we refuse their press releases as “news” and suggest they talk with the advertising department. Or fail to find submissions as fascinating as they would like and cut out the good stuff. Or report news that they fear fails to put their organization in the best light.

I’m a journalist. Pretty much always have been. I cannot imagine working on the other side of this divide. I understand their position and their purpose. But my loyalty and sympathies run with the wicked wretches in the newsroom.

So of course I savored the column, laughed my butt off and said “amen brother” at the end. Nice column, Al. You pegged it.

If you missed it in the Friday, July 20, edition, you can read his column at http://www.denverpost.com/allewis


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