Obscure Box

Thoughts from inside the obscure box


August 4, 2009

Why using a quote from a media release has its dangers

Posted by : Michael Lund

Too often these days you call an organisation looking to speak to someone for a story only to be told you'll be sent a media release.

Sometimes the protesting works and you get to speak to a human being, sometimes it doesn't and you are left with a statement that claims to be the words of a human being.

How do you know the person actually said those words?

Maybe they are just the carefully crafted words of a chain of media people, spin doctors, PR managers, minders and the rest.

Heart Foundation

Heart Foundation

Look what I found when I chanced upon a quote that claimed to be the words of a representative of Australia's Heart Foundation.

"It is still widely believed that heart disease is typically an old man’s disease. In fact, only 3 per cent of Australians are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women."

Who said that? Interesting question.

The quote has its origins in a 2005 survey conducted by Stollznow Research for the Heart Foundation and medicine company Pfizer Australia, published in the March 2005 edition of the Pfizer Australia Health Report.

Health Report #13, page 3

Health Report #13, page 3

The report says that "97 percent of people are unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women", and that phrase was reworded for a Latest News piece on the Pfizer website, in "Heart disease - the silent killer of Australian women" (12 March 2005).

The quote is now attributed to Dr Lyn Roberts, Heart Foundation Chief Executive Officer.

"The survey conveys that only 3 percent of Australians are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women."

Two years later on 17 May 2007 and Heart Foundation issues a media release as part of its Go Red for Women campaign in which Dr Roberts gives birth to the quote.

"It is still widely believed that heart disease is typically an old man's disease. In fact, only 3 per cent of Australians are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women," said Dr. Roberts.

The release is picked up by the Heart Foundation's partner website idonate.com.au on 24 May 2007 and copied word for word.

What is more interesting is a report in The Canberra Times titled "Heart of the nation takes a ruddy glow" (12 June 2007).

"It is still widely believed that heart disease is typically an old man's disease. In fact, only three per cent of Australians are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women," he said.

He said? Who's this he? Well the quote is attributed to the Heart Foundation ACT chief executive Tony Stubbs.

Then the Herbert River Express carries a report "Bambaroo goes red for a cause" (16 June 2007) in which the same quote, word for word is attributed to the Heart Foundation's health director Karen Uhlmann.

"It is still widely believed that heart disease is typically an old man's disease. In fact, only 3 per cent of Australians are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women," Ms Uhlmann said.

A year later and the Heart Foundation is at it again with the 2008 preview of the Go Red for Women campaign. So no doubt Dr Roberts will have something to say on the matter.

"It is still widely believed that heart disease is typically an old man's disease. In fact, only 3 per cent of Australians are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women," said Heart Foundation Chief Executive Officer Cameron Prout.

Who? I know the Heart Foundation has an important message it's trying to get out but please tell me its entire staff don't go around reciting the exact same quote all the time, word for word. Surely somebody is capable of a little variation.

Sadly not, as the Maroondah Journal proves in "Taking it to heart" (3 June 2008).

"It is still widely believed that heart disease is typically an old man's disease. In fact, only 3 per cent of Australians are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women."

Who said it this time? Heart Foundation chief executive officer Kathy Bell, Victorian division.

Later that month and we have published in officeprofessional.com.au a story headlines "The number one killer of Australian women – heart disease" (11 June 2008).

"It is still widely believed that heart disease is typically an old man's disease. In fact, only 3 percent of Australians are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women," Heart Foundation chief executive Maurice Swanson said.

So Maurice Swanson is now echoing the exact same quote as Kathy Bell, Cameron Prout, Karen Uhlmann, Tony Stubbs and Lyn Roberts.

At least they're consistent.

But the Heart Foundation case serves as a warning that the quotes issued in a media release are not necessarily the words spoken by the person mentioned.

So next time you get a media release, either say up front in your journalism that the quote is in a statement from whoever or whatever organisation, or better still try to speak to a person and get your own quotes instead.


No Comments

(required)
(will not be published) (required)
(opitional)

Just so you know…

All thoughts and comments here are the honestly held personal opinion of Michael Lund and are based on the information available at the time of publication.

Categories

Admin