I’ve worked as a journalist for a number of years now, so I’m used to a daily inundation of press releases from various sources, all of them hoping to get publicity for a cause, a product, or themselves.
I try to approach each of these press releases with journalistic objectivity and professional detachment. A decision on whether or not to follow up on any given press release should be strictly based on a judgement of its merits as a story.
But I can’t claim perfection. I have to admit that occasionally my own personal biases get in the way.
For instance, I received a press release the other day that got my blood boiling.
The release originated from a new bagel store “nestled in the heart of Toronto’s Jewish community”. The store was looking for publicity for its grand opening. Fair enough. But here’s how its text began:
“The Toronto bagel is not as well known as other types of bagels…”
They lost me right off the top. Right in those first three words:
The. Toronto. Bagel.
First rule of press releases: You can’t sell it if it doesn’t have at least a ring of truth to it.
Claiming there is such a thing as a Toronto bagel – however obscure – is like trying to claim there is such a thing as a North Bay smoked meat sandwich. Or an Iqaluit poutine. Or a Shawinigan deep dish pizza.
Everyone knows there are two – count ‘em two – kinds of bagels.
There is the New York bagel: Fluffy and soft and delicious.
And there is the Montreal bagel: Crunchy and sweet and delicious.
That’s it. Everything else is just a dinner roll with a hole in the middle.
The press release only got worse.
It contended there is a “secret technique and recipe of the Toronto braided bagel”. It even laid claim to a long “tradition” for this alleged product.
Finally, it offered “a sample bag of fresh bagels by overnight courier to reporters interested in enjoying this world treasure.”
I know you are thinking what I was thinking when I first read those words. No … not “free food!”
Rather: “What gall!”
Look, I’m willing to concede that Toronto has one or two good qualities.
There’s the formerly tallest free standing structure in the world.
There’s the replica of the Montreal Canadiens dressing room in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
There’s the melt-in-your-mouth fried eggplant at the Jerusalem restaurant on Eglinton.
Some of my closest friends are from Toronto, even.
But … please. Spare me. The Toronto bagel? A world treasure?
First of all, the claim itself smacks of desperation. It’s the culinary equivalent of the classic defensive Torontonian claim of being a “world-class city”.
Second of all… well … did I mention there are only two kinds of bagels? And neither of them includes the word “Toronto” in its name.
The Toronto bagel? Next thing you know, Toronto will be claiming to have an NHL hockey team.