Explorer News, a press release is not a news story

by David Safier

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to mention that I write a monthly column for The Explorer, a weekly distributed mainly in the Marana/Oro Valley/Foothills area. But seeing as how I'm criticizing the paper, it probably isn't necessary.

Melvin_newsclipA few days ago, I went to the online home page of The Explorer and found the image at right among its news clips. No problem with the headline, "State Senator Al Melvin signs 'No New Taxes' pledge" or the pic of him shaking Grover Norquist's hand. But I looked at the copy below and thought, "This sounds like it's written by Melvin's PR team, not by a reporter."

Sure enough, I followed the link to the "story." It's more than a mere puff piece. I'll bet my blogger's hat it's nothing more than a copy of a Media Release Melvin sent to The Explorer, and most likely to every news outlet in the state (except maybe the Weekly, which Melvin hates).

If the Explorer thought this Media Release was newsworthy, it should have rewritten it as an objective piece stating what Melvin did — he went to Washington D.C. and signed the "No New Taxes" pledge. The paper could include a quote from the release, that's fine. But to publish a campaign-crafted puff piece with all its self-congratulatory language as news goes against any notion of what journalism is supposed to be.

If the paper is going to publish all or part of a Media Release, at least it should be called what it is by revealing the source. Don't simply put this at the bottom:

"© 2014 The Explorer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed."

If I'm right, that's not even accurate, unless The Explorer can copyright material that was sent to the paper.

NOTE: The link to the Melvin story is no longer on The Explorer's home page. However, the story itself is still on the website.