and public relations people have long endured a relationship of
mutually unsatisfying symbiosis. Tenacious publicists harass editors
and reporters, who ignore them for months only suddenly to demand
immediate access and answers when news breaks.
"There are still
reporters and editors who will not have a single civil thing to
say about P.R. people," said Sreenath Sreenivasan, a Columbia University
For a time,
the Internet only made things worse, with only the wiliest journalists
able to remove their names from aggressive publicists' e-mail lists.
Mr. Sreenivasan gives out what he calls a "walk away" e- mail address
to avoid such encounters. "Never use your best address," he advised.
But now various
online services are inverting the chaser-and-chased dynamic of traditional
One of the newest
is Direct-PR.com, a mailing list service that promotes itself as
"dedicated to connecting journalists and P.R. folks, directly, at
the journalist's urging and not before." The service, which forwards
reporter queries to more than 4,000 publicists, was set up last
year by Richard Santalesa, a longtime technology writer. "I knew
other writers could benefit from my list of contacts," he said in
says he bans publicists who reply to queries with off-topic responses
or use them as occasions to pitch their own stories. "No one wants
P.R. dabblers or dilettantes," he says on his site.
Some other services
try to protect journalists with so-called "cloaked e-mail" that
does not reveal the reporter's identity. "We've tried to eliminate
spam," said Peter Granat, senior vice president at SourceNet, an
e-mail service run by MediaMap. Its clients are public relations
oldest of the group is ProfNet, set up 1992. A journalist-directed
"expert network" that aims to put reporters in touch with professors
and other specialists in a variety of fields, ProfNet receives more
than 150 reporter inquiries each weekday. PR Newswire, which owns
ProfNet, plans to add real-time interaction via instant messaging
in the near future. PR Newswire, in turn, is owned by United
Have these services
reduced the P.R. spam?
no," Mr. Santalesa said. "The goal was to try to cut down on that
clutter. But the only way you can really avoid it is by not giving
out your name at all."