Publicist Leads To Pulitzer

How can you resist a story that begins like this:

“Publicists have a dreary and emotionally exhausting job. Daily, they must cold-call and suck up to journalists in attempts to forge relationships that are built, fundamentally, on dysfunction.”

Matt Smith’s piece in San Francisco Weekly “The 2005 Pulitzer Prize For Distinguished Public Relations” finally gives the harried and under-appreciated publicist her due. The distinguished Pulitzer went to a Sacramento Bee writer for his editorials that, Smith says, were instigated by a publicist for an eco group called Environmental Defense. The publicist should be given credit for her work by the Bee writer and the Columbia University Pulitzer nominating committee, says Smith.

Imagine that, a journalist actually acknowledging the importance of publicists in the generation of important news. Writes Smith:

“In an ideal journalistic world, you see, publicists wouldn’t exist. Journalists would be resourceful, hardworking, and freethinking, never needing the press releases, story tips, staged interviews, and other “on-message” news that publicists provide. But because they often lack these qualities, reporters eventually wind up accepting at least some of the fare that publicists pass out, albeit with resentment and suspicion, even contempt.”

Those of us who have toiled in the publicity pits know precisely what Smith is talking about. We are expected to know the media, know journalists and how they operate, know our clients story inside and out. In the best case, we are a secret weapon for the media, their invisible research arm. We are satisfied to remain behind the scenes, with no attribution. But often we are derided by journalists because they don’t want to admit that they need help with a story.

We are long removed from the day when a journalist will share a Pulitzer with a publicist. But the day when a journalist writes a detailed, investigative story about a publicist’s work leading to a Pulitzer has arrived. | See Mark Rose Bio

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