Should You Ask Reporters To See Stories In Advance?

In my decade as a media trainer, I’ve observed many changes in my profession.

When I started, a “facebook” referred to an annual book that profiled each member of Congress, a “twitter” referred to a bird (if anything at all), and a “pinterest” might have been a pun developed by a clever pin manufacturer.

In terms of working with reporters, I’ve seen two similarly big shifts over the past decade.

First, when I first started, asking a reporter to see their questions in advance of an interview was usually seen as unprofessional. That’s no longer the case; many reporters are now willing to share their questions in advance (I covered that topic here).

Second, asking reporters to see their completed stories before they ran was plain taboo, something only inexperienced hacks did. But as journalism culture continues to evolve, so too do the best practices for media relations.

So is it okay in today’s media culture to ask reporters to see their stories before they run?

Most PR professionals—particularly the experienced ones who have been in the business for many years—would likely answer that question with an emphatic “No!” And I generally agree with them, but not completely.

Here’s what I’ve seen lately. While promoting my new book, I did about 20 interviews. Two reporters and one blogger both volunteered to send me their stories before they ran so I could fact check them and request changes. I would describe the news organizations as industry journals—not major mainstream news organizations. But even the majors have done it – one Washington Post reporter was caught last year sending drafts of his stories to sources and allowing them to make edits.

I think we’re at the beginning of another shift in media relations, one which will lead to eventually being able to ask (some) reporters to preview their stories in advance. For now, I’d still advise my clients not to request stories in advance, unless they’re dealing with nontraditional smaller news organizations, bloggers who don’t adhere to traditional news standards, and perhaps some industry journals.

But keep your eye on this one. From what I’ve seen, the answer to this question may be different ten years from now.

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Please leave any additional thoughts about this question in the comments section below.