So, here’s the tough question: are modern journalists just victims of public relations piracy? Does the influence of pr in modern journalism affect journalists’ ability to present the ‘truth’ and ability to be objective?
What we do know is that modern journalists are caught between two extremes: the public’s skeptical perception of journalism “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story” and the MEAA Code of Ethics’, “respect for truth and the public’s right to information are fundamental principles of journalism” (Tickle, 2008, cited in Tapsall & Varley). But can journalists actually tell the ‘absolute truth’? Is there such a thing as ‘complete objectivity’? What impact do PR practitioners have on these utopian-like ideals?
First, the number of PR practitioners outweighs the number of journalists in Australia. This is a fact. Approximately 80% of news stories are repackaged from other sources, namely press releases. This is also a fact. But does this really mean that journalism is being hijacked by PR? Are journalists doing a deal with the devil by working with PR practitioners?
Honestly, I don't think so. Journalists have a responsibility to report the 'truth' and we need to acknowledge that media releases only act as an idea for a story, not as a ready-made news story and the facts need to be checked before we even begin to treat them as one. Having said that, I think journalists can benefit a great deal from the practice of public relations. We all have pages to fill and time slots to cover and if public relations can provide viable story ideas, why should we argue? Remembering that is only the story ideas.Not the whole stories themselves. And of course, it's not a one way street. Public Relations practitioners need journalists just as much. They want the exposure, the coverage and the publicity. They want to generate an understanding and relationship from their work, for their clients. If they can provide the foundations for the story, the talent, the footage and quotes, why shouldn't we take advantage of that? It's all about giving a little and taking a little. Having a good relationship with a few PR Practitioners will only help make your job easier.
Well, that's my opinion anyway. What do you think?
Black paPR Report. 2009. PR/Publicity Friends with Benefits, accessed 15th September 2010, http://blackpaprreport.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/prpublicity-friends-with-benefits/
Digital Journal. 2010. Study: 80% of news stories are repackaged from other sources, accessed 15th September 2010, http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/285520
Tapsall, S. & Varley, C. 2008. Journalism: Theory in Practice, chap. 6. & 7. Oxford University Press: Victoria.