Like just about any news outlet, a lot of our coverage starts with press releases. Groups get our attention through various PR wires we review, or by sending releases directly to TNS editors and reporters. Frequently, we even use press releases as source material -- usually when we are unable to reach the group for comment due to the time of day.
But what we don't do, unlike lots of journalists in the mainstream and alternative media, is take the lead of the press release and adopt it as the approach of our own coverage. In fact, in cases like this piece about US PIRG and ConocoPhillips, we may even turn the intended thrust of the release -- the spin -- right over on its head.
Case in point, the US PIRG media release that drew our attention to the disgraceful ConocoPhillips vote, as we noted at the end of our news brief, was celebratory. The folks at US PIRG were simply elated -- or so they reported -- that they managed to convince a quarter of an oil company's stockholders to vote to investigate how bad one corner of the firm's future operations might actually be.
While I appreciate US PIRG's low expectations, I found their declaration of victory a bit myopic. Maybe from their vantage point of trying to work within the system, they are proud of what they accomplished. But when I stepped back to look at the vote from a wider view, I saw a story about a corporation once again refusing to take responsibility to its impact on the environment.