Very often I read a news article and I’m struck by the writing style or language in the story because it is so out of character for the site. Now it’s not news to me or to you that mainstream media and bloggers often republish press releases as an original news article, but one recent incident had me curious to see how extensive the practice is. Since the domain was entertainment news, I figured that it was a more circumscribed set of sites to check than say consumer electronics. The original press release was from Comedy Central regarding three new shows that it will launch. Here are a few distinct phrases from the release (emphases mine):

  • In “The Burn,” Ross will be joined by a group of fellow comics to skewer the week’s hot topics and head into the field to take aim at public figures and current events.
  • Unlike typical critics who review boring things like films, food or art, MacNeil reviews the most intense experiences of life itself…by living them.
  • Nathan is to small businesses what Gordon Ramsay is to floundering restaurants. Only much much worse.

Below are a sampling of news sites and blogs that chose to cover this release, categorized by me based on how they dressed up the message. Skip to the section that you most want to see:

The Worst: No mention of a press release and heavy usage of the text from the release without quotation or attribution:

  • UPI  – This wire service is responsible for the inclusion of at least one other publication in this category who just picked up the story.  UPI’s tag line, by the way, is “Over 100 years of journalistic excellence.”
  • – Pretty much a word-for-word reprint, this site comes up at the top of Google search results for many of the PR’s phrases.
  • – Even goes so far as to label the story “Exclusive”. Varies from blatant copying to lazy rewording, such as ” instead of films, food or art, Forrest MacNeil reviews difficult life experiences … by living them.”
  • Reality TV World – Ran the UPI article mentioned above.

The Bad: The following publications use language from the release without quotation or attribution. They do however, mention that there was a release.

  • The Hollywood Reporter – The first, The Burn, stars comedian and Comedy Central roastmaster Ross as he pokes fun at the week’s hot topics with a group of his peers. He’ll also head into the field to skewer public figures and current events.
  • The North Korea Times – Wait…The North Korea Times? They sourced THR above, so this is just for novelty value. But, still, this story made it to The North Korea Times?

The Okay: Whether these publications mentioned a press release or just said “Comedy central announced”, they at least rewrote the damn thing.

  • TV Guide – Re-arranged the words: “Ross will take on (and presumably annihilate) the week’s hot topics and current events with the help of fellow comics.”
  • Seattle Post Intelligencer – Attributed copy of TV Guide article above.
  • Broadcast & Cable and Multichannel News – (Same author and publisher) The release was rewritten, but barely: “a…critic who gives his review on intense experiences…”
  • Variety – Not the best because it doesn’t mention press release or announcement. “Ross will frontline “The Burn,” in which fellow comics will join him to mock the past week’s prominent news stories and public figures.”

The Honest: These sites fully identify the article as a press release and reprint it untouched, which, when there is so little to report on, is a good option:

The Best: These cite the original release and have original copy

  • The Huffington Post – Better than most, added material outside the press release and wrote original text. “Ross and fellow comics will riff on the week’s subjects.” But also contains this opening gem: “Comedy Central announced three new series…the cable channel announced Thursday.”
  • The Celebrity Cafe – It is a complete rewrite, but oddly sources Deadline, which is not. “The Burn, which will be a weekly roast program hosted by comedian Jeff Ross.”
  • C21Media – “The Burn will see a panel of comedians discuss current affairs, with the show to be filmed in front of a live audience.”

I’m pretty surprised by Variety, THR and Deadline, the first two because they are actual newspapers that cover the industry and by Deadline because it sets itself up as so much better than the first two. I was pleasantly surprised by HuffPo. For a general site that has an aggregator-living-off-other-people’s-work reputation, it seems to have actually put in work to produce this article. If I had to pay for content based on just this one attribute, the so-called mainstream media and even some industry-specific blogs would lose out.

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