Not long after Wednesday night’s News12 debate between Suffolk County executive candidates Steve Bellone and Angie Carpenter, Bellone’s camp declared him the winner in a press release e-mailed to any living reporter working within 30 miles of Suffolk County.
In fact, the e-mail was sent out at 8:16 p.m., just two commercial breaks after the debate ended. So assuming the Democrat’s camp did actually wait until the end of the debate, it only took them 16 minutes to have a quick consensus meeting to determine their guy did in fact win, write up the press release, have it proofed and send it out. Wow! That’s insanely quick. That’s actually Usainly fast, as in Jamaican sprinter Usian Bolt kind of fast.
But of course that’s not what happened. Surely they knew that in their eyes their guy was going to win, so they typed up the release in advance of the debate and sent it as fast as they possibly could with the bold headline “BELLONE WINS NEWS 12 DEBATE.”
Fast forward more than 16 hours — apparently Carpenter’s people take their beauty rest seriously — and the Republicans sent out their answer to the Democrats with an e-mailed press release at 12:55 p.m. Thursday that featured the headline: “CARPENTER WINS NEWS12 DEBATE.”
Huh? I thought Bellone won. And why are these two press teams sharing the same headline writer?
All kidding aside, of course nobody actually “won.” Not officially, anyway.
The debates are for the public to view and decide on their own who actually won. They then take that information to the polling place on Election Day and cast their vote.
But political campaigns will still do their best to get you to believe whatever it is they want you to believe. Which is why they waste their time sending out these types of press releases to the media, as if some editor somewhere will see it and say “Hey you, rookie reporter, get me 600 words on this Bellone victory.”
All they end up doing is spamming up the inboxes of reporters throughout Suffolk County. In an unofficial poll of our newsroom today, we determined we covered only two stories this election season as a direct result of a press releases that were sent out to us via e-mail.
That’s in all the races combined.
Sure, we covered some debates and other press conferences this season, but only twice was a press release the driving force behind us covering something. (And in one of those instances it was a conference call, so we didn’t even have to leave our desks, which reporters love.)
Don’t get me wrong, this epidemic of ineffective press releases clogging up media inboxes everywhere is not limited to political campaigns. Press offices across the board, many of which are funded through your tax dollars, are spamming us all day every day.
And it’s the junk e-mail we get from politicians and government press offices that serves as the most annoying type of spam. I’m more likely to buy anatomy enhancing pills with the money I inherited from a dead stranger in Nigeria than I am to attend 95 percent of the press events I get invited to.
This past summer I received a press release from one elected official’s press guy informing me that his boss had attended a senior picnic the weekend before. Attached was a picture of the politician handing out hot dogs to senior citizens. I wouldn’t even run with that story if I wrote for OscarMeyer.com, yet his press guy was paid to send it to me and many other editors who immediately deleted it. The press guy even followed up with a phone call to make sure we received the e-mail.
The next morning I got two more e-mails from other politicians who attended the same picnic. I still don’t get it. What’s the news hook? Were these hot dogs processed at plants powered by water from the fountain of youth, making each of these seniors young again? I can’t see a single variable that would have made these releases worth running. Yet we as taxpayers paid to have them produced.
Legend has it the Times/Review newsroom once had a wall dedicated to a certain elected official’s meaningless press releases. “The whole wall was filled with them,” one senior staffer recalls.
I’m thinking about finding a spot here where we can do that once again, so we can confuse future generations of Times/Review reporters as to who actually won the 2011 News12 county executive debate.
Grant Parpan is the web editor for Times/Review Newsgroup.