Today we get a good example of Press Release Journalism. Today on page A-4 the Anchorage Daily News has essentially published the press release with just minor cosmetic changes.
The by-line is Anchorage Daily News/ adn.com.
It starts off like a story written by a reporter. It's not until the third paragraph (of five) that it says, 'according to the Department of Transportation.' It's not until the fourth paragraph that it mentions a Department of Transportation statement. As though everything before that had been gathered and written by a reporter. Not all the press release is there. A few words have been changed or omitted, but it's basically the DOT's press release almost verbatim.
Here's an example. I've copied the original sentence from the press release and then used strikeout and brackets to show the ADN changes.
Northern Aviation Services, a division of NAC, has reconfigured the building that once served as the mess hall and kitchen, transforming it into aEssentially, the whole piece is from the DOT press release with most of the language intact. The byline should read "Department of Transportation" not "Anchorage Daily News." Although they take paragraphs (actually almost everything) verbatim, there are no quotation marks. You can see the ADN piece here and the original press release here.
first classcharter terminal for the use of their client, Shell Alaska Exploration[by Shell's employees and contractors.]"
If the ADN wants to publish a press release, that's their business. But they owe it to their readers to identify it as such. They shouldn't disguise it as news.
If they treat it as news, they need to clearly identify what came from the press release and what value the reporter has added. They should relate the story to other stories. They should raise questions about how this fits into the bigger picture of Anchorage development.
Essentially DOT announced that Northern Aviation Services (a division of Norther Air Cargo) has remodeled the old mess hall at Kulis Air National Guard Base (127 acres total) into
"a first class charter terminal for the use of their client, Shell Alaska Exploration. The facility will be supporting transportation of Shell’s employees and contractors during the summer offshore exploration season. NAC has also chartered a Boeing 737-400 passenger aircraft from Miami Air which will be based at Kulis as well."They also mention that there is still space to lease:
Approximately 230,000 square feet of building space remains available for lease. This includes three C130 hangars, four office buildings, and a large warehouse. Existing improvements also include approximately 15 acres of aircraft parking apron and three acres of vehicle parking lots.
I couldn't help wondering about the link between the proposed land swap the ADN reported in June where the airport wanted to take land from one of Anchorage's most loved parks - the coastal trail - and swap it for other land. The move caused widespread protests.
To some people, natural, untouched land that isn't generating income, is wasted land. The value of the land as watershed, wildlife habitat, noise buffer, aid to mental health, or recreation space, isn't factored. For more depth on this idea see an older post on E.O. Wilson's The Future of Life. or this one on "What makes an Empty Lot?"
The press release says they have 18 acres in the old Kulis land for parking - 15 for planes, three for cars. The June ADN article doesn't say how many acres would be in the swap. An Anchorage Press article on the swap doesn't either. (At least searching for 'acre' didn't locate the information.) But the City Planning Department's West Anchorage District Plan 2011 Chapter 4.3 gives us some numbers:
Ultimately, the Assembly developed and approved a compromise land exchange in 1994 similar to the ballot initiative. Under the exchange, the school district received 40 acres of state land at the southwest corner of Caravelle Drive and Raspberry Road, the airport received 130 acres of HLB land west of its then existing boundary and 191 acres of HLB land were transferred to the Parks and Recreation Department. The land transaction received final approval in 1995, which formally dedicated Point Woronzof Park.I don't understand how this all fits together. But I couldn't help but wonder how this relates to the recently reported airport land swap proposal. I'm not sure, but I think it is worth raising the question. Let's talk about it. Maybe others do know. At the very least we need to find out. The obligation isn't for the journalist to know everything before writing, but to raise questions, and be clear about what is known and what isn't.
I do know that there is a lot of pressure on the city by developers to make as much land available to them with as little regulation as possible. See the current fight over the Municipality's planning document Title 21. There is also concerted effort by the State Department of Transportation - despite overwhelming community opposition - to push what was Bragaw Road and is now Elmore Road through the greenbelt on the land of the University.
Some might say that newspapers have been publishing press releases as news items forever. I don't know if that's true. It's only when you see the original press release that you see how blatant it is. Perhaps the generic ADN by-line gives it away. There is no reporter's name.
I realize the newspaper industry is suffering hard times and they need easy stories. But give the byline to the source - in this case the Department of Transportation, the department that owns the airport and has a vested interest in its development. While a state entity should have the public interest in mind, often they are staffed by people whose values are shared with only some of the public. The readers shouldn't be tricked into thinking this was a news story.