Are Press Release Websites Wrecking News Authenticity?

Press releases are meant to be informational and newsworthy, but the truth is that most companies use them to self-glorify their services.

press release
photo credit: Karen Roe

Here are a couple of sample headlines for you to chew on:

“XYZ Company Launches A Document Translation Service That Makes It Easier To Get Documents Translated” (What else is a translation agency expected to do?)

“ABC Crowdfunding Grabs Entrepreneur Attention” (Funds for start-ups will naturally grab entrepreneur attention. What other attention can they grab?)

There are damaging effects when newspapers and magazines, online or otherwise, publish journalistic pieces based on press releases without inquiring into the claims. Think about it. Hundreds of thousands of people read a news website. What could happen if the site reported a press release verbatim without first checking up on the claim it makes? Readers may receive hyped-up information and end up purchasing the wrong product. They may stop believing in the website, newspaper or magazine. When many people end up trusting hyped-up information, the media’s credibility and authenticity suffers.

A Recent Case That Dented Online Media Credibility

A recent press release screamed that Google was acquiring Internet provider ICOA. News organizations, including Associated Press, bought into it and published the information. The news spread like wildfire and the company’s thinly-traded stock surged as investors rushed in to buy it. It turned out that the news was false.

According to seasoned market watchers, the press release was issued by vested interests with the intention of inflating the company’s share price. When the stock surged, savvy market operators offloadeded shares in the OTC market. Hapless share buyers who believed in the news clip were saddled with losses when it was discovered that the news was fake.

Now here are the catch 22’s in this whole sordid saga:

  1. Journalists are not responsible for profits or losses that anyone incurs because of their errors. Even if the journalist repeats false news, he will most likely not be held responsible. This is the level of protection that a journalist enjoys. In this case, it has been proved that journalists can become unwilling accomplices of financial fraudsters.
  2. No action can be taken against press release websites. These websites claim that they do follow some internal controls, but fake releases can creep in despite the exercising of such procedures. However, even since scammers can subscribe to premium packages on press release websites, and the webmaster and reviewers may likely clear all releases issued by premium customers.

So, who is responsible for losses caused to investors when fake and malicious news items get printed? No one. The investor will have to grin and bear it. Or, he can sue the newspaper and try to overturn the practice of journalistic privileges.


Press release websites should consider strengthening their review system, and newspapers and magazines ought to be careful not to blindly write stories based on press release material. The wheat must be separated from the chaff. Meanwhile, investors would be smart to learn to differentiate between a journalistic piece and a plant. Unfortunately, financial fraudsters will probably continue issuing malicious press releases. Some releases will be caught, and some may get through. We can only wait and watch, and decide for ourselves what information is reliable, and what isn’t.

About the Author: Thomas E. Lewis, is writer and business owner from Elba, NY who has used to translate business documents for his company’s international clients.