Best Friday Afternoon News Dump

City Paper

The oldest and most honored tactic in the news manager’s playbook is to bury the story in a place and time when it is least likely to be noticed. Putting the report on the agency’s website but not sending a press release is the sneakiest, but a close second is waiting until 4 or 5 p.m. on a Friday and sending a press release that slips the news somewhere into the middle of the second or third paragraph. Studies have shown that fewer people read the Saturday paper or pay attention to weekend news, and of course reporters are spread thinner then too. But no one can say you didn’t tell them! The Baltimore Department of Public Works went to this well two weeks in a row in August, first informing the public that the deluge of Aug. 12 resulted in a 3 million gallon spill of sewage-contaminated runoff into several local rivers, and then, the next Friday, at 4:38 p.m., revising that figure upward by “more than 9 million gallons.” Both releases lead off with the news that the rainfall was of biblical proportions, a fact already known to many. To be fair, DPW did not obfuscate; a real sneaky agency might have put the sewer overflows into five or 10 separate releases over as many Fridays. But it is interesting that its analysis of the spill’s volume just happened to wrap up late Friday. For that, DPW wins the title, and a slightly damp, slightly stinky plaque to go with.

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