Why editors delete our press releases (hint: we make stupid mistakes)

Open an attachment? Hitting the delete key is quicker—and far likelier.

Your hard work on that press release just went bye-bye with the click of the delete button. You know what’s the saddest about this? I don’t even know what I deleted. There was no information, other than your name and contact info in the body of the e-mail. You expected me to open an attachment to find out what you’re pitching. I don’t have time to open the attachment. Delete.

I’m not making this up. This morning, during a rush on the news desk, I deleted four of these e-mails. These e-mails didn’t even have subject lines to help me understand what the e-mails were about. Delete.

I have said it before. I say it again. The news desk receives hundreds of e-mails per day. Most of it I consider to be spam. It’s not the kind of spam you may receive in your personal e-mail, but random statements on situations not related to the Denver market like, nationwide e-mail blasts on feeds; or stories that we would never air; or political slam-downs from various campaigns around the country. Around a dozen of us in the newsroom are on this e-mail list, but not a single one of us has the time to actually monitor the e-mail constantly.

Essential information

When the newsroom is buzzing and there’s no down time, I scan the e-mails when I can. I look at:

  • Who is sending the e-mail
  • E-mail subject
  • Content in body of e-mail

In seconds I make a decision to file the e-mail or delete it. If you make me search for the important information, Who, What, Where, Why, How, I will delete it. If that information is easily accessible I will immediately copy/paste the information into the appropriate planning file. If I don’t have time to file it, I will leave it in my inbox until I have the time.

I do NOT have the time to search through an e-mail to find out whether it’s of interest. I may not even have the time to open an attachment, as happened this morning. If all your information is in an attachment and I’m slammed on the desk, I will delete it without opening the attachment.

So I beg of you, if you are e-mailing story pitches, make sure you put the pertinent information in the body of your e-mail. You may have the most gorgeous, cunning, clever press release ever attached to the e-mail, but I won’t see if it I don’t open it. I can’t stress enough that most likely I won’t have the time to take the extra step of opening it.

Never a dull moment

You may think this is ridiculous and I’m just being lazy. I’m listening to 12 scanners; monitoring e-mail along w/several social media networks; working with photographers, producers, reporters and editors; and answering phones, all at the same time. My co-workers may not have exactly the same responsibilities, but they are all doing as many simultaneous tasks as I am. In any breaking news situation, take all this and multiply it by 10.

If you’re still not convinced, just think about how long it takes a police dispatcher to utter horrible phrases like, “officer down” or “shots fired at a school” or “fire in multistory building with parties trapped.” It takes just seconds for news to break, throwing the newsroom into a frenzy. In the time I have to take to open an attachment to figure out what the heck the e-mail is about, the entire news of the day can change.

If you still don’t believe me, I simply ask you: If you expect me to take the time to open an attachment to get any information whatsoever, why can’t I expect you to put a succinct story explanation in the body of your e-mail? I can, and I do. You’ve put all your efforts into creating a list. I advise you to take a few extra seconds to write something plain and simple or even snazzy in the e-mail to make sure your hard work doesn’t find itself in the deleted items folder.

Misty Montano is an assignment editor at CBS4 News in Denver and blogs at On the News Desk.

Topics: PR


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