Friday, May 02, 2008

Deconstructing news releases (by Suzie)

          News releases open a window onto our culture, and sometimes I’d like to toss the writers through it. A friend sent me a sample from her inbox:
          Subject: Top 10 Tips for a Successful Bake Sale
Share Our Strength’s Fifth Annual Great American Bake Sale® is in full swing this spring! The national campaign, working to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry, is helping to feed the 12.6 million American children currently suffering from hunger and food insecurity. Registrants can sign up to hold their own local Bake Sale at
          This makes me think of a slogan popularized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom: “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need, and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”
         Another interesting aspect of this news release: The writer knows that many journalists love lists of tips; they think readers - especially women - are too busy to read stories.
         Subject: Snacks in the City: Get the Dish on the 'Snack-Tasking' Scene
Whether running from one meeting to the next, joining gal pals at the movie theatre for that long-awaited Hollywood premiere, or reading a best-selling “chick lit” book, today’s savvy women are looking for ways to shine in each possible snacking scene.
Pack That Purse: Never be caught unprepared. Take along a smart snack so it’s within reach when cravings strike.
Count It Out: Managing portion control is the key to sticking to a calorie budget. Pick up a snack pack or divide your favorite snack into servings of 100 calories or less and place them in easy-to-grab containers for do-it-yourself portion control.
Turn up the Volume: A light snack with crunch factor can bring added enjoyment to munching.
Live It Up: Indulge those cravings—just don’t go overboard. Enjoying a few bites helps curb desires and prevents overdoing it in the future.
         Women just cannot discipline our desires and our bodies enough. (I'm not immune. I'm currently keeping a food diary and hey, thanks for these tips.)
          Subject: NEW – Gift for Baby
Cord Blood Registry, the nation's largest and most acclaimed private bank, has introduced a GIFT REGISTRY! CBR's registry provides a convenient way for friends and family to help with the cost of cord blood banking.
  Subject: Perfect Mother's Day Gift: Insect Shield Apparel
As you are planning Mother's Day stories, there is a best kept secret for Mom your readers may not yet know about - Insect Shield Repellent Apparel. Insect Shield clothing offers protection while you are enjoying outdoor pursuits, traveling to buggy locales, gardening or simply trying to relax with family in the backyard.
          I laughed at the headline, and was irritated by the implication that it’s always the mother’s job (not the father’s) to buy clothes and care for kids. But then I read that “Buzz Off Insect Shield works with agencies and international relief organizations that work to protect at-risk populations from insect-borne diseases.” I don’t know the efficacy of this brand, but this news release underscores the provincialism of U.S. journalism. Generally, a reporter would need to find a local angle, such as the clothes are manufactured in their city or a local person would be testing the clothes overseas. The assumption is that readers will not be interested unless there's a local angle. As a result, readers lose out on a lot of interesting stories around the world.
  Subject: Moms Not Taking Kids’ Medical Condition Seriously, Experts Find
PHILADELPHIA, PA, APRIL 24, 2008 - Often wracked with shame, embarrassment and self-loathing, an astonishing number of young girls suffering from hyperhidrosis – chronic excessive sweating – find themselves victimized not only by the disease itself, but also from the difficulty in eliciting their mother’s compassion and aid to effectively treat this misunderstood medical condition. This according to the International Hyperhidrosis Society (IHHS) - a nonprofit offering the most objective, credible and timely information available on the subject along with expert and peer-based community support.
         “Hundreds of thousands of teenage girls around the world suffer from hyperhidrosis, but their emotional and physical suffering is not taken seriously by uninformed mothers who dismiss their daughter’s complaints due simply to being uninformed and unaware,” said Lisa J. Pieretti, executive director of the IHHS. “Desperate, alone, depressed and afraid, far too many young girls ultimately suffer in silence, learning how to live with a condition that could readily be managed if they - and their mothers - only knew how.”
         To help foster dialogue on the subject between mothers and daughters, this Mother’s Day the IHHS will launch “Take 10 for 10” – a disease awareness initiative encouraging moms to take just 10-minutes out of their holiday to conduct a 10-question assessment with their daughters to discern if the child may, in fact, have hyperhidrosis - and to generally discuss how excessive sweating has adversely impacted her daughter’s life. 
           I couldn't find anything on this Web site to indicate that girls sweat more than boys or that mothers are less sympathetic than fathers. But marketing often is done by gender, and someone decided to gear this to Mother’s Day. Because it would seem duplicative and derivative, it’s unlikely they’ll do the same appeal to fathers and sons for Father’s Day. It’s interesting that the nonprofit chose to use Mother’s Day to criticize mothers, telling them about one more way they are failing their children. 
         The Web site does discuss a Harris survey that found that girls and women are more likely to be embarrassed by sweating. Once again, women are under more pressure to control their bodies. Along those lines, I loved a recent comment on the satiric TV show “Ugly Betty.” A female executive runs into Betty in an office restroom and blurts out: "Betty, I'm so sorry. I try to keep up the appearance that I never use the bathroom. I hope you won't think any less of me."