How many times have you lined up an interview with a journalist for a client only to hear them say: "Can I see what they have written?"
I can almost hear the groans now.
What they mean, of course, is "can I vet the copy?"
They may as well add "so I can turn a lively journalistic article into something incredibly boring that no-one will be interested in reading".
That's just one reason why journalists do not normally agree to such requests. Another is that if someone is allowed to vet an article in such a way, then it is longer an independently produced piece of editorial.
Well, at least that's how it always used to be - but I fear things may be changing.
The other day I was talking to a pal who works in what used to be Fleet Street when he told me a tale about how a story which appeared in one of the country's biggest selling "red tops" had come about.
The story featured one of the country's top football players - sorry, but names will have to be kept out of it to protect the guilty.
Anyway, before the story appeared, it seems the copy had to be sent to a PR agency retained by the player, who duly set about "amending" it, and back to the paper it went.
Next, the paper had to send over the headline they were planning to use - this was rejected by the PR agency, who responded: "Our client won't like that" and offered some nondescript version of their own which, with a shrug and an expletive, the sports editor of the newspaper was forced to accept.
Oh, and by the way, the player also got paid for the article, which, when it appeared, would have looked for all the world like independently produced editorial --although the writing style and the headline would have been a bit of a giveaway.
Now it seems that this is by no means a one-off.
I was reading another national newspaper the other day when I came across a diary piece that related a similar story about a top England player.
It seems that anyone who wanted to interview this player about a particular story had to sign an agreement that allowed his representatives the right to approve copy, headline, picture and caption.
The agency apparently claimed the arrangement was standard procedure these days.
The diarist concluded: "So much for a free press."
Quite so - and in my view, this sort of thing has set what may well turn out to be a dangerous precedent.
Because, if everyone is going to have the right to vet articles and even headlines, then there is really going to be no need for either journalists or PR agencies, because people may as well write the stuff themselves if it is going to be printed anyway, and when the newspapers and magazines get filled with badlywritten boring junk, no-one will buy them.
Final result: no journalists, no PR agencies, and nowhere for third parties to get their stories printed.
I think even football players would agree that a free Press is preferable to that.