Our definition of business news
Red Wing Republican Eagle
May 11, 1989
A restaurant gets new owners. That’s news. The same restaurant sends out a press release about the popularity of its special home-made soup. That’s an ad.
An investment firm relocates. That’s news. The company announces a new line of annuities. That’s an ad.
A retailer opens in town. That’s news. The same merchant sends press releases about grand openings and successive anniversary sales. Those are ads.
All of these examples occurred in Red Wing and at nearly every other community newspaper. They point out one of the biggest misunderstandings which the R-E deals with daily: what’s legitimately a news story, and what’s strictly a promotion that should be advertised.
Weekly the R-E gets besieged with requests for “business news.” Nearly every day some company promotes its wares through the mail. In almost every case, the advertising agencies know that what they’re trying to pass off as a press release rightfully belongs in advertising columns.
All sorts of gimmicks
Agencies entice newspapers in every size and shape — literally. Product samples routinely are delivered. At the R-E, most of these wind up alongside the accompanying press release in the wastebasket.
The R-E’s business news is designated for exactly that — news. We report on new businesses, key changes such as a new location, new management or major remodeling, or a significant development in operations.
But we do not routinely report on changes which relate directly to marketing strategies. A new department, added product lines, internal staff reorganization, expanded services, or reoccurring sales promotions with customer giveaways all properly fall under advertising.
Many business items are grouped under our “Business Briefs.” Often these will be reports of employees attending seminars, achieving continuing education credits or professional designations, or being recognized for professional achievements.
We think that’s important to share. It’s similar to many of our “People” items which report of young men and women in the military service, or people being recognized for service to community organizations.
For businesses that do submit news releases, here’s an important tip: Write the information in layman’s language. Too often these items contain terminology and abbreviations more appropriate for a professional journal. The information may make perfect sense to fellow office workers, but — if left untouched by editors — the items would be Greek to most readers.
Editors often are stumped by the releases and have to make follow-up calls to make the message understandable to readers.
The news and advertising departments operate closely — but independently — at the Republican Eagle. If customers purchase an ad, they should expect professional and courteous service and a good return on their investments. But there is no link between how much advertisers spend with the R-E and how much news coverage their corresponding businesses receive.
Just as advertisers are entitled to courteous service by their R-E advertising representatives, they should expect and receive from the editor a courteous and clear explanation of the newspaper’s separation between news and advertising.