Tuesday, October 03, 2006

BusinessWire's 100th anniversary of the news release

I woke up this morning to find that Stuart Bruce and our friends across the pond questioning the very thing I've been working on for my remarks at the Business Wire 100th anniversary of the news release meeting in Atlanta today.

In fact, the news release is not 100 years old; but it as I pointed out in my presentation, 1906 is a year worth celebrating.

Here's what I said (warning, long):

Working on behalf of the anthracite coal operators, Lee issued frequent handouts that updated reporters on discussions between the operators and the miners at a time when another huge coal strike was pending. One reporter stated that it had been almost impossible, during the 1902 strike, for a reporter to get any reliable information from the owners. In 1906, though, because of Ivy Lee "news of importance and interest was easily obtainable from operators as well as from miners."

Despite this change, Sherman Morse was, in 1906, still skeptical. "The new plan has not been in effect long enough to enable one to foresee its real meaning,” he wrote. “Much depends upon whether it results in disclosing all the facts in which the public has a right to be concerned, or whether it results merely in obtaining for the corporations greater publicity for such facts as are directly favorable to them."

It is worth noting that, under Lee’s new system, the coal miners went back to work under their old agreement, gaining nothing but a three-year peace.

It’s also worth considering that Lee failed to live up to the standards he set in the Declaration during his work for the Rockefeller family during the Colorado Fuel and Iron strike, less than a decade later. Sherman Morse would not have been surprised. But, having debunked one myth already, I will save that story for another day.

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