Crikey received this email from Diana Wolfe, Media & Communications Coordinator Council to Homeless Persons, yesterday:

From: Diana Wolfe
Sent: Friday, 14 November 2008
To: Acott, Steve
Subject: MX editorial policy regarding embargoed media releases
Importance: High

Dear Steven,

I issued a media release last night under embargo to next Wednesday. One of your reporters, Inge Gilchrist, called this morning and informed me that MX would be breaking the embargo and running with the story this afternoon. She said that it was a new editorial policy, issued as a directive from you.

I’m writing to seek clarification if indeed this is correct and if so, why you have not issued a public communication to this effect?

I’m also writing to request that your newspaper honours our embargo, as per standard media procedure.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely,

Diana Wolfe
Media & Communications Coordinator
Council to Homeless Persons

From: Acott, Steve
Sent: Monday, 17 November 2008
To: Diana Wolfe
Subject: RE: MX editorial policy regarding embargoed media releases

Hi Diana,

I was away on Friday so I’ve only just seen your email, however my deputy, Melanie Fenton, was following MX procedure when she ran the story. The reason we don’t adhere to most embargoes is we miss the story if we don’t.

The story ran on Page 1, which gave your conference a lot of exposure. Other newspapers would have buried the report well inside their books which would have diminished significantly the chances of your message being heard. And once the story was published elsewhere, mX would not have run it.

I hope now that you have seen how we treated the story you are more comfortable with mX breaking the embargo.

Steve

From: Diana Wolfe
Sent: Monday, 17 November 2008
To: [email protected]
Cc: GARRY MALLARD; Media Watch; [email protected]; [email protected]; Andrea.Sharam; Deb Tsorbaris; Jonathan Green; [email protected]; [email protected]; Adam Robinson; Liz Louden; Alliance Information Desk
Subject: MX editorial policy regarding embargoed media releases

Dear all,

MX newspaper breached our embargo and published a front page story based loosely on our media release on Friday afternoon. The media release was issued on Thursday night via MediaNet’s Melbourne metro news list, which includes MX, and was clearly embargoed to Wednesday 19th November.

Not only did they breach our embargo, but the journalist beat the story up, trivialised the issue and fabricated quotes from the author (whom she did not interview) and the report (which she did not read). The story is rubbish.

MX Editor, Steve Acott, emailed me this morning and confirmed that … “The reason we don’t adhere to most embargoes is we miss the story if we don’t.” (see below). His claim that our story received prominence that it would not have otherwise achieved is cold comfort when I’ve already received emails back from Herald Sun and Melbourne Times saying the story, which they were going to cover in-depth, is effectively dead in the water. The Age is considering their options, but is unlikely to cover it either now.

This has serious implications for any organisations and PR professionals issuing embargoed media releases in good faith, and for other media outlets that adhere to embargoes as part of the fundamental journalistic code of ethics! Does is now mean that ‘all bets are off’? Why hasn’t MX made a public declaration about this “policy”?

I’ll be making a formal complaint to the Press Council and as you can see I’ve cc’d Media Watch and crikey.com in on this email. I’ve requested that MediaNet remove MX from their general news list, and issue a warning to clients about MX’s ‘policy’ regarding embargoes.

I’d encourage you to forward this to your colleagues and PR professionals, including the PRIA, and please inform other journalists with whom you deal regularly. I also encourage you to write to Steve Acott expressing your outrage about this breach of journalistic ethics and lack of integrity, and to take any other action you see fit. I’d also suggest blackbanning MX in all states and not issuing them with any media releases, and encouraging others not to pick up or read MX until they are willing to adhere to embargoes.

At the very least, BE WARNED that any embargoed material you issue to MX may be published before the embargo date.

We need to send a strong message to MX that their conduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Kind regards,

Diana Wolfe
Council to Homeless Persons

Peter Fray

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