The Anatomy of a Press Release

I write 1,000-page biology textbooks. Tomes. So when in early June a nice public information officer (PIO in media lingo) from Columbia University called to ask if I'd like to write a press release--a mere page or two--I jumped at the chance. Pay was minimal (and yet to arrive) and a byline nonexistent, but I would have a shot at actually making the news, to distill the essence of some exciting new research result in a way that might make it into the mouth of NBC's Tom Brokaw or the pen of The

Ricki Lewis
Oct 25, 1998

I write 1,000-page biology textbooks. Tomes. So when in early June a nice public information officer (PIO in media lingo) from Columbia University called to ask if I'd like to write a press release--a mere page or two--I jumped at the chance. Pay was minimal (and yet to arrive) and a byline nonexistent, but I would have a shot at actually making the news, to distill the essence of some exciting new research result in a way that might make it into the mouth of NBC's Tom Brokaw or the pen of The New York Times' Nicholas Wade.

"Have you ever heard of something called 'gp120' binding to something called 'CD4,' or 'X-ray crystallography'?" asked my Columbia connection. I answered in the affirmative, explaining in a torrent why the news was exciting, that viewing the choreography of HIV's gp120 approaching a T cell's CD4 receptor would reveal new targets for...

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