Talk with your editor about paraphrasing/quoting from press releases.
Whether you’re a new reporter or a seasoned one, talk with your editor about how to best handle press releases. How does your newsroom typically handle them, and what are the expectations? Is your editor OK with you quoting from, or paraphrasing, them? What about quoting from them without attribution?
Having discussions about how to use press releases can give you a better understanding of what is and isn’t acceptable in your newsroom. If you don’t agree with your newsroom’s process for handling press releases, raise questions about the process with your editor. Just because your newsroom has been doing something a certain way for years, doesn’t mean it has to (or should) stay that way.
My philosophy is that it’s fine to use press releases in stories, as long as you’re transparent with your audience about where you got the information. Adding attribution lets your audience know where the information originated.
Determine whether the release is newsworthy.
When you get a release, ask yourself: Is this news relevant to my audience? Is the release worth a brief post? A longer story? A post and a longer follow-up story? Something more? Nothing at all? (At Poynter.org, we’ve taken all of these approaches.)
Unless I get a press release that’s completely unrelated to my beat (and this has happened on several occasions), I usually take the time to read the full release. That way, I can make a more informed decision about whether there is something newsworthy in it.
If the release has timely and important information in it that I want to get out quickly, I’ll write a short post and quote the full release. I always indicate that it’s a release, and I separate it into a block quote so that it’s distinguishable from my own words. If the release is not especially time-sensitive and I want to write a related story, I’ll start doing some reporting.
Prosecute the press release.