I don’t normally work from the Crikey office, so it took deputy editor Jason Whittaker emailing me yesterday for me to find out that there was a present waiting for me. A very desirable present. It was an e-reader from the Borders bookshops, tied up with a lovely blue ribbon. To be precise, this one, valued at $199.

Now, I didn’t ask for this. And although I want an e-reader very much and plan to buy one (though not necessarily this one), and although I turn 50 this week and undoubtedly deserve a pressie, I don’t intend to keep it. I have been far too self righteous in far too many forums about journos taking freebies to be able to do so with a clear conscience.

But the fact that little ‘ol me has received this unsolicited present can only mean that thousands of them are being spread around to journalists, in the hope that we will write about them.

And a quick survey of the newspapers in the last few days would suggest that it is working. Suddenly the availability of this nice little unit has become news. See here and here and here. Do your own Googling for more examples.

Now it is news. E-readers will certainly be one of the big changes in the way we live over the next few years. And freebies in newsrooms from PR companies are, of course, nothing new. 

But wouldn’t you better trust the ability of the journos to sort the genuine news from the hunt for free advertising if they declared the fact that they had received a freebie?

And if they gave it back.

Megan English is the Border’s PR person whose name is on the accompanying media release. This is to let her know that, once I prise my pressie from the folk at Crikey, I’ll be donating it to the local Rotary op-shop. Not without a pang. But there you are.