Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Journalist, Don't Quote Thyself

Hoo-boy. I usually enjoy reading the "Street Talk" column in the Grand Rapids Business Journal for its snarky tone and quick update on local news. So I was a little shocked to read the lead item this week about the BJ forming a partnership with WZZM TV 13 (apparently ending the relationship with FOX 17).

It's an interesting item about this new partnership that you can read for yourself. But what I found surprising and amusing were the quotes from the respective media outlets.

Carole Valade of the BJ rattled off this ad copy: "As the region's premier source of regional business news for 25 years, Grand Rapids Business Journal is pleased to be a part of this partnership with WZZM."

Sheesh. I need a chalkboard. First, are you only pleased as a "premier blah blah blah?" Could you not be pleased as a human, or just plain pleased? Do you insert positioning statements in all your conversations?

And what's with being "part of a partnership." Um, duh.

Tim Geraghty (why not Janet Mason?), WZZM news director, doesn't do much better when he steps up to the PR plate: "WZZM is excited to be part of this relationship."

Greater words of love have been expressed at a shotgun wedding.

Why speak in the third person as (name of organization)? What's with the pedestrian commentary that we are "pleased" and "excited?" For one, everyone says that and it sounds more like formula than feeling. Even if you do feel it, it's expected that you are excited about what you are doing.

Here's an idea--how about contributing something meaningful with the quote. These spokespersons for WZZM and GRBJ could hold forth on why this is being done, or--gasp--why it's relevant to readers and viewers.

I teach my media relations students the nuances of offering good quotes in news releases, and have them practice in writing drills. One thing I tell them is to avoid the "LAQ" (a high tech communication acronym that stands for..."lame ass quote"). Journalists would never use dribble in a story, I say. They'd do their own interviews, get something meaningful, conversational, genuine, I explain.

Well, apparently that's not the case when they quote themselves. Perhaps they've read too many bad press releases, full of LAQs.

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