Columns » Public Eye

Public Eye


Tis the season to be besieged by news stories about shopping, shopping and more shopping. After all, as Boulder-based radio station KBPI spent last weekend telling us over and over again, the most important words in the English language are "holiday sale."

The revelation that people go to stores and buy things is once again major fodder for daily newspapers and local broadcast stations. Seems to me that the stories about people shopping don't change much from year to year, but perhaps the nuances of how the shopping experience varies may be just too complicated for me to handle.

Our local news anchors, though, have really gotten into the holiday spirit by devoting gobs of airtime chatting with each other about how their own shopping experience is going, then earnestly reporting the latest in how the shopping is going for everyone else.

They've even gotten the cop angle on shopping. KKTV Channel 11 recently broadcast a report designed to strike holiday fear in the most sturdy. Apparently, this is not only the time of year to shop, but it's also a dangerous time for your car, which is likely to get sideswiped or dinged in the parking lot of the mall.

But not to worry. Channel 11 tells us that Colorado Springs' Finest are out in force, patrolling the parking lots to crack down on hit-and-run holiday shopping miscreants.

Not to be outdone, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office last week announced its "Shop with a Cop" program, where officers were actually assigned to go shopping with children. Their volunteerism is commendable, but honestly, who really dreams about going shopping with a cop.

Last Saturday, 20 uniformed deputies volunteered to shop with the kids at a local Kmart store. Santa Claus arrived in a patrol car, with lights flashing and siren blaring. The kids were then teamed with the cops to assist them while shopping.

But the award for most contemptible effort to attract attention so far this holiday season goes to a public relations company that is trying to pitch a story idea to push products on the Web site that they also control.

Normally, of course, these kind of press releases, which spit out of the fax machine like machine gun bullets this time of year, are immediately filed in the recycle bin where hopefully they will come back as information we can actually use.

But this one ascended the tower of bad taste.

The press release urges newspaper editors to run a story about a topic that Jay North, a public relations flack, promises will be of "great interest" to readers.

North is the owner of California-based Jay North & Company. He claims to have 8,000 media contacts all over the country in his little black Rolodex. His company's Web site offers advice to people who are interested in getting free advertising by way of "planting" news stories, including making sure the "story" does not look like an "ad" though participants are advised to "whenever possible mention big numbers and big names."

The blockbuster story pitched by North in the aforementioned press release stars a young woman named "Shelby."

"Your women readers will thank you for including Shelby's story in a special Holiday diet section," North advises in his cover query. "Readers may want to get started now in order to slip into that little black dress."

Then North tells us all about "Shelby," who went to her 10th high school reunion this year and was motivated to spring into action when her husband remarked how great some of her old girlfriends looked compared to her. So "Shelby," went online and "found" a Web site -- which just happens to be controlled by North's company -- and proceeded to order three products designed to help her lose weight.

Along with her galpals, "Shelby" began working out using the amazing products, which include a workout video and some diet shakes. "Shelby" allegedly lost 10 pounds, and was so delighted that she went back to North's web site and bought a hair grooming product.

"Now my husband is offering to take me out just to show me off," concludes "Shelby" in the press release.

Of course, "Shelby" could have saved herself the money and trouble by getting rid of her husband, but that's another story.

North wants newspaper editors to run this sexist story as is -- including naming the amazing diet products and their prices, all offered on his Web site -- as well as the Web site address -- so that he will make a lot of money this holiday season.

But we won't. Instead, we'll leave that breaking front-page story to some other local news outlet.

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast