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Revealing My Sources
By Joe McAllister
Two quarterlies, Sources and the Press Review, offer
corporations and public relations personnel the best means to be
accessible to journalists at a time when PR can do the most good.
They are both celebrating their 10th anniversaries and their longevity
shows they are filling a need.
Sources offers a listing service for corporations and associations
that describes what the company does and who to contact for comment.
It also indexes corporations by subject for quick reference.
Press Review contains a listing service in its back pages,
but much of the front of the book is information about who is moving
where and doing what in the world of Canadian journalism and PR.
Barrie Zwicker was the publisher of another journalism magazine,
Content, when he decided to start Sources as a supplement.
The first issue he brought out in June of 1977 contained 32 pages.
Sources is now independent and the anniversary issue for
the summer of 1987 will contain 350 pages. "It will have grown
10 times in 10 years. You wouldn't have expected it to grow that
much," Zwicker said.
The idea is fairly simple. Sources provides journalists
with a way of finding the alternative sides to a story. It has a
strictly controlled circulation to 10,000 working journalists, some
libraries and of course the companies and organizations that buy
space in the book.
Purchasing space in Sources is done on a sliding scale.
"The smaller the organization the less they pay," Zwicker
said. That helps keep the number of listings high. Sources
has 1,759 listings and includes many of the industry organizations
important in this country. It also includes many consumer and advocacy
associations. Zwicker feels large corporations should be happy to
be paying more than smaller companies and see the number of listings
grow. Having a large list makes the whole thing more valuable to
Zwicker knows journalists well enough to realize they expect "freebies,"
and they wouldn't buy Sources themselves. Another problem
is journalists don't tell public relations people they use Sources,
preferring the PR people to think it was the reporter's bright idea
to phone and not something they got out of a book.
That makes it difficult for Zwicker to go out and sell PR people
on paying to be included in Sources, since they don't know
how often the journalists use it.
I once worked on a daily out in the boondocks and can't say how
many times, working on deadline, I needed comment from a major comany
or industry on a local story I was doing. As often as not I would
reach for Sources, find the name of an appropriate PR officer
and in minutes have someone knowledgeable on the phone to explain
or justify what was going on locally.
The information I was seeking wasn't about major national issues,
but there's nothing more fun for a small-time journalist than a
local story about people up against a big corporation. Sources
offers an invaluable way for PR people to keep in contact with the
smaller media outlets and get involved with those small stories
which will never make national news but can sure hurt a company's
image on a regional basis.
Content, it should be noted, is the oldest of all Canadian
journalism magazines with 17 years of publishing experience, but
it is controversial and critical of all and sundry, so, as one might
suspect, advertisers don't support it. Content is published
by the Friends of Content, with some help from such established
publishers as Maclean Hunter and Southam. A few faithful advertisers,
some of them large corporations unafraid of the exchange of ideas,
do take ads in Content.
Mike Cassidy and his Press Review has been at the listing
game longer than Sources, but has far fewer listings. Cassidy,
publisher and editor of Press Review started his listings
when he ran a tabloid, Press Journal before he purchased
the Press Review. "Some of the chaps buying listings
have been with me for over 20 years," Cassidy says.
At one point Press Review was bi-monthly and contained investigative
stories and commentary on the press, but during the depression of
the early 1980s it was forced to cut back to quarterly issues and
toned down its commentary. Listings for the Press Review
are $160 for a minimum of eight lines, and a listing is run in four
issues of the magazine.