Is it news, or “news?”

“News” is such an abused term these days. Will Ferrell

There is “news” about products and services, “news” about celebrities and industries, and in-house “news” about government entities.

If it’s information, it must be news, right?

Well, not so much.

A striking example came to me the other day as I listened to an interview with City of Tacoma Communications Manager Gwen Schuler on KLAY radio. She was talking about a new video-based program called The Tacoma Report.

All through the interview, she referred to this product – this piece of public relations – as a “news program” and a “news broadcast.”

Her goals for the show: Positive stories and good news about Tacoma.

The program is supposed to have a “live newscast feel,” and take advantage of how much there is to “report” on in Tacoma.

Now please let me add this disclaimer: I applaud this effort at local production and agree it’s a great way to bring press releases, dry blogs, and old school brochures, house organs or mailers into 2014. It’s a good step, and the field pieces really stood out for how well they were shot.

But I’m also equally adamant that all of us be smart media consumers: That we understand and appreciate the fundamental differences between journalism, and everything else.

Content produced by the PEG channels is not journalism, it’s brand-journalism or advertorial content that is conceived and produced as part of an overarching public relations or marketing strategy.

Those programs are overseen by Communications Directors and politicians and are products of outreach strategies designed to persuade.

Again, there’s no sin in that – I just think important that media consumers recognize it.

And I would also ask too that producers of that kind of content clearly label it as such – and not fall into the questionable ethical practice of hijacking the vernacular of journalism to describe PR-framed content.

Ultimately, I think the work is well-intentioned, and if you, as the viewer, know the frame through which to view it, it’s very informative – and a good way to get the city’s in-house take on some of their in-house initiatives.

But that’s where it ends, and its the consumer’s -and I would also say the producer’s – responsibility to recognize it, and label it for what it is in the interest of transparency.

I fully realize journalism is easily criticized, that corporate influence has damaged the cause, and that practitioners on the journalist’s side of the fence have soiled their own nests in many ways.

Even so, somebody has to say it.