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If your reputation rests entirely upon your ability to provide accurate, credible information to the news media, it can really put a damper on your sense of humour.
Every year CNW struggles to manage joke news releases issued by our clients on April Fool’s Day. Despite how it may seem, we’re not immune to the hilarity.
It’s all terribly funny until someone in the news media gets fooled and reports on the news as fact. At this point, the credibility of the issuing organization and the newswire provider both come under a harsh spotlight.
CNW’s sister company in the USA maintains a strict policy against joke news releases. “Running a story based on a fake release is not only a waste of time but it can have dire consequences, especially when it’s market moving news,” advises Brett Simon, Manager, Media Relations at PR Newswire. See their blog post here: Press Releases Are No Joke on April Fools Day.
Similar to PR Newswire, CNW has also held a strict policy of not moving joke news releases on April Fool’s Day or at any other time.
This has led to some harsh criticism by lighter-hearted CNW clients, such as WestJet and Virgin Mobile, whose April Fool’s Day news releases are in keeping with their corporate culture, and are arguably “expected” by news media covering those beats.
CNW’s straight-laced stand became news in itself in 2006 as Keith McArthur, then reporting for the Globe and Mail, wrote “Virgin Says CNW Just Can’t Take a Joke.”
A challenge for CNW is in identifying what is acceptable and what isn’t. Some of our clients’ humour has been clever or subtle enough that joke news releases weren’t recognized as such by CNW’s busy News Centre team. Our team members are skilled editors and proofreaders – but they’re not trained in all aspects of all our clients’ businesses. Once in a while a joke news release would slip through and make it onto the newswire, unleashing cries of, “no fair” from clients whose attempts had been blocked.
This year CNW has decided to lighten up. Sort of. All joke news releases are welcome, however will be issued with the phrase “April 1 Alert” right at the top. We encourage our clients to be forthcoming with our News Centre associates to ensure their news releases are appropriately tagged. Naturally, all other rules still apply: the issuer must be an approved contact and the content must meet CNW’s standard copy guidelines.
Keep in mind, while CNW will issue your news release with an “April 1 Alert,” PR Newswire may not.
CNW has issued a media advisory informing news media of this policy change.
What do you think CNW’s policy should be around April Fool’s Day news releases?
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