Election year journalism is good for my vocabulary, I guess, in an It Builds Character sort of way. The latest new-to-me find came via a writeup of early Dem Convention news:
In a media availability with reporters following the breakfast, Clinton reiterated her opposition to McCain’s ads.
Emphasis mine. Sputtering, visceral dislike for that count-noun phrase also mine.
“A media availability”? The notion, based on a quick scan of the first couple pages of Google’s ~28,000 hits for the phrase, seems to be more or less the same as what I’d call a press conference. Folks mostly “hold” them, though I see a couple examples of someone “participating in” one as well. Also: host, conduct, offer.
The odd thing to me from an armchair-linguistics standpoint is this use of “availability” as a count-noun. I’m accustomed to availability as a more abstract noun—I have some availability next week; the Senator has no availability (or more specifically no media availability) tomorrow; it’s a question not of willingness but of availability; and so on. But an availability? A discrete, self-contained unit of availability? Weird! (Weirder, too, is the implication that one’s schedule might then include two or three or seven availabilities, though I haven’t come across any examples of that usage so far.)
Googling for the logical root form, “an availability”, turns up only ~300,000 hits, which suggests to me that “a media availability” is a significant continuent of this count-noun use of availability. Further, the first hits for “an availability” seem to be using the world ‘availability’ itself as a modifier in a larger noun phrase, e.g. “an availability zone”, “an availability technique”, “an availability management service”, “an availability analysis”, and so on. Looking through those results, I don’t see so far in fact any noun-form use of availability like the one I’m talking about here.
Where did this come from? Is it long-established PR jargon that I’m just now noticing? Long-extant jargon that is only more recently coming into popular currency? Something coined outright in the last few years? Paging through the search results, I see at a glance datelines from 2008, 2007, 2006 — but that’s hardly a reliable survey, for a number of reasons.
A handful of things I’ve found, rooting around in Google:
Here’s a working definition of the term, from a May, 2008 pdf title “Firewood media recommendations”:
A less frequently used method is called a media availability. It is in some ways simply a planned opportunity to meet with the news media to check out your issue, in this case, firewood. Conduct a media availability only if there is no other appropriate means to get the message out separately to the media. For example, conducting a live demonstration (jumping a canyon on a motorcycle) might be a good time for a media availability. You would not want to do the same demonstration 5-10 times for individual reporters.
Also noted: the use of the (less jarring, to me) “a media availability session” in a 2008 blog post. Somewhat less formal circumstances than a news writeup, though, so that may not be a great citation.
Wikipedia, in it’s writeup on Press Conference, says this:
A government may wish to open their proceedings for the media to witness events, such as the passing of a piece of legislation from the government in parliament to the senate, via a media availability.
Under “See related”, it links to the article on Pseudo-event. Heh.