Like publishers everywhere we regularly receive press releases from different groups, the majority of which are informative and help us media people spread the news without too much effort. Of course the motives for sending out press information can vary. A statement from a political group would most likely try to persuade us of a political point of view, whilst something issued by the police might be designed to make us aware of a danger, such as the piece below about the TV licence fraudsters! We obviously read and edit press releases before deciding whether to print them and occasionally we contact the organisation to clarify anything we are unsure of.

There is an art to writing a good press release and this includes a picture (worth at least a hundred words) and a quote, which can, if the quoted person is of sufficient status, give gravitas to the article. One such news release, which arrived 10 days ago from Huntingdonshire District Council, caught our attention especially as it purported more good news for our market. Despite not having a picture it followed the District Council’s standard format with a positive headline and an extensive quote from one of the lead councillors, this time it was the Executive Councillor for Operations and Regulations, Councillor Marge Beutell. It began with . . . The Council is pleased to announce plans to expand its existing loyalty reward schemes for regular market stall holders. It continued with Marge saying ‘I am delighted that we are implementing additional loyalty rewards for our market traders’ and further on it said . . . ‘The Council has also worked successfully with St Ives Town Centre Initiative (SITI) and the Town Councils to run events to encourage visitors.’ On the face of it this is good news and we can understand why HDC wanted to get it known. However we were unsure what the loyalty scheme was and how it had changed as the release did not make it clear. We were also puzzled by the comment about successful working with SITI as we were unaware of any successful events they had jontly run to encourage visitors (to the markets, presumably). So we contacted the council to find out more. We didn’t hear anything for a week so we rang Cllr Beutell who said we should contact HDC’s Customer Services helpline ‘who will be able to assist you’.

We did, and spoke to HDC’s Press Office who confirmed that there are no details as they are still working on the scheme. We pointed out that their news release said that the council were expanding its ‘existing loyalty reward schemes’ and presumably this meant that there was a scheme in place and its details should be already known? So was this Fake News? Well it seems so, for it appears that there isn’t a scheme in place yet and, as for the successful events HDC have run with SITI and the Town Council to encourage visitors, no-one was able to enlighten us as to when and where these had been held.

Eds note: We noticed the quotes from the press release appeared in the local paper.