History of Press Releases
The term news management was first used in 1955 by James Reston in testimony before a U.S. congressional committee on government information. But it can be argued that news management actually began as early as 1919 at the Paris peace conference.
Regardless of when it is claimed that news management was first practiced, or when the term was first introduced, the appearance of what have come to be known as press releases date back to the 1880's.
It was quite common back then for members of the U.S Congress to drop by Newspaper Row, located on 14th Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and F Street in Washington D.C., with the odd piece of information, generally about themselves and their agendas. Their purpose was to provide and manage the news. Many went so far as to interview themselves (Schudson 1978: 20).
More recently, companies and organizations as well as individuals have realized that they need not wait for the media to contact them before pro-actively managing the news about themselves. In fact, to wait actually invites innuendo and rumor being spread by ill informed, self-appointed news analysts. This cannot be altogether avoided but, with a little proactive news management, it can be diminished.
Ivy Lee, one of the first public relations practioners, after receiving a substantial gift of newspaper space from John D. Rockefeller to be used in a campaign on behalf of Johns Hopkins University, had this to say:
"…in view of the fact that this was not really news, and the newspapers gave so much attention to it, it would seem that this was wholly due to the manner in which the material was dressed up for newspaper consumption. It seems to suggest very considerable possibilities along this line."
He was right and today most organizations take an active role in creating and distributing the news about themselves. And, of course, the very considerable possibilities available in Ivy Lee's day have come a considerable long way since. Today, the news media is informed via E-mail, in close to real-time, when newsworthy events or stories are happening.
Be it a simple press release or a complex audio-visual feed, the media can instantly download information from the Internet and place it in print or live broadcast form.