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Then came e-mail. The first e-mailed press releases were even cruder than faxes — black-and-white text messages with no possibilities for logos or art. But as e-mail technology has advanced, press release writers have been quick to adapt.

The typical release reaching us today has a full-color logo stripped across the top with the name of the organization, followed by a splashy color headline and, usually, a photo or two alongside the text.

They pop up instantly and require no messing about with envelopes or curly fax paper. And best of all, we can train our spam-catchers to filter out or allow releases from various groups as we choose.

Sometimes, one of them even inspires us to write a story.

David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is djones@washingtontimes.com.