Meet Rusty Simmons.
He’s a San Francisco Chronicle beat reporter for the defending NBA champions Golden State Warriors. When you cover sports, in any market, there is never a shortage of stories. Actually, sports is one of the most coveted gigs in journalism for that very reason.
However, it seems Rusty has been very busy. Maybe he woke up late or was suffering from a weekend bender? Whatever the reason, he fell victim to … cue suspense music… good public relations.
Although a skosh passé, the press release is still an effective tool to share information with our friends in the media. In some situations, when they are written very well and up to journalistic standards, they can be tempting to tell the complete story.
And Rusty succumbed to that temptation and found himself suspended from the San Francisco Chronicle. His charge? Copy-and-pasting the team press release about purchasing real estate for the new team stadium. Proven by his editors calling him out in the paper, as seen with the slug prior to the new article:
The headline for the original Chronicle story and the Warriors’ press release on NBA.com were the same: “Warriors formally purchase Mission Bay site.” The initial story was identical to the release, except that the team referred to itself as the “NBA Champion Golden State Warriors” in its lede, and the Chronicle story left out the “champion” superlative. The only other change was a semicolon in the press release that became two sentences in the Chronicle story.
That’s bad because newspapers appreciate the fine art of storytelling and investigative reporting that its staff learned in journalism school. To that end, it gets even worse for Rusty. Deadspin has uncovered that Mr. Simmons has a habit of doing this — they found six more examples.
When presented with the five additional examples of copying and pasting under Simmons’s byline and one under Saracevic’s, San Francisco Chronicle editor-in-chief Audrey Cooper wrote, “I take these very seriously and we will be investigating them.”
Shame on you, PR peeps. Don’t you feel bad now? (Okay, maybe not. High-five!)