Saturday, April 21, 2007

One of the ideas that they really hammer in journalism school is the evil of PR. I have heard relatively little about public officials or corporate executives who may mislead reporters but I've heard a lot about the inherent wickedness of the press kit.

The press kit, for those who don't know, is to journalism what Lunchables are to a meal. A press kit has some pictures, video or sound if that's appropriate for the recipient, and a complete pre-packaged story, ready to go.

Using the packaged story is way bad in journalism circles, but it's frowned upon to use any of the other materials as well-the pictures, the video, the audio, etc. Because then you are buying into the agenda as packaged by the PR firm. You will hear a lot of high minded talk about this, talk that I agree with, actually. Uncritical use of the press kit is sloppy, it gives away a free advertisement, and it gives the imprimatur of authority to the idea being promoted in the press kit. If a political campaign sent a press kit with video showing the candidate discussing a proposal, television stations would be right to ignore it.

Sorry for all the set-up because the idea I want to bring up is Cho Seung-Hui and the Virginia nightmare shootings. I hadn't thought about it this way until listening to Tom Zengotita on the radio who described the package that Cho Seung-Hui sent to NBC as being a press kit.

  1. Is it okay to use a press kit in your legit journalism as long as it comes from a batshit crazy dude and not from, say, GE?
  2. Batshit crazy killer dudes make press kits nowadays?