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Friday, December 9, 2022
Editorial: Journalists dont answer to public relations depts

On Tuesday, The Lake Report and, presumably, other media organizations, received the following email from the town’s communications department:

Good morning,  

Just a reminder to please refrain from contacting Lord Mayor Disero and town staff directly with questions, requests for comment, points of clarification, setting up phone interviews, etc. All media inquiries should be directed to me, and I will gladly reach out to the appropriate staff members and respond to your requests as soon as possible. Please note that we will do our very best to respond as promptly as possible; however, adequate time is needed to gather all applicable information.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thank you in advance for your co-operation …

While the intent might seem friendly, and even helpful, the reality is, when journalists are seeking information, they aren’t doing readers any favours in the ways of getting the truth, if they are to rely solely on communications officers and public relations specialists.

In case that isn’t clear: Journalists do not want information that’s been fluffed and filtered. We want the truth, in real, human terms.

News doesn’t always happen on schedule. When answers are needed, sometimes time is of the essence. The town’s communications staff do an excellent job helping the town get its message out. But the more filters that news and information goes through before it reaches readers, the more opportunity there is to manipulate and massage the message. That might be a reason why the PR industry is booming while news media organizations are suffering.

So, The Lake Report will continue to directly contact politicians and town officials when we feel it is necessary. We won’t apologize for this. 

If politicians and town staff members do not want to answer questions, we will simply publish that fact if it happens. For instance, one member of council, Stuart McCormack, often refuses to comment to us on issues when we solicit his opinion. It happened again this week on the subject of parking in Old Town, and whenever it does, we simply say that he declined to comment.

Thus far, our Lord Mayor Betty Disero has been extremely helpful and willing to take phone calls from all of our staff members. We feel we’ve always held true to journalistic principles of fairness, accuracy, and do not play a game of “gotcha” journalism.

When lines of communication remain open and transparent, it results in a clearer picture of any story for both journalists and readers.