PR and Journalism

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There is a precise and predictable inverse relationship between the work of journalists and the work of the public relations industry.

Good investigative journalists work to inform the public about the activities of the rich and powerful. They uncover secrets known only to a few, and share those secrets with the rest of us.

Public relations, on the other hand, works to control and limit the public's access to information about the rich and powerful. PR has its own techniques of investigation--techniques which range from opinion polling to covert surveillance of citizen activists. Rather than studying the few for the benefit of the many, these techniques study the many for the benefit of the few.

PR Watch seeks to serve the public rather than PR. With the assistance of whistleblowers and a few sympathetic insiders, we report about the secretive activities of an industry which works behind the scenes to control government policy and shape public opinion.

PR Pros To The Rescue Of Journalism?

PR Week's Hamilton Nolan offers a candid, if not glib, analysis of the Project for Excellence in Journalism's third annual "State of the News Media" report, which looks at major trends in American news media. "Not surprisingly, into the maw of overworked journalists and reticent corporate owners comes the PR industry. The simple fact is that the less staff a newsroom has, the less time a reporter has to devote to gathering news, and the more receptive a reporter is likely to be to a PR pitch," Nolan writes. [1](Sub req'd).

"Reporters themselves would undoubtedly chafe at the idea that friendly PR pros are happy to step up and do their jobs for them. But deadlines are deadlines, word counts are word counts, and Happy Hour at the bar next door to the newspaper's office ends at 8pm sharp. The Project for Excellence in Journalism may have unwittingly signaled the beginning of a new 'Project for Excellence in Media Relations,' which will offer tired journalists an increasingly tempting crutch." [2]

Pay rise for propagandists

A leading state-run newspaper in China has scrapped a controversial appraisal system in which reporters would get paid more if they pleased the Communist Party's central propaganda department. The plan prompted a rebellion by the paper's reporters, one of whom posted an open letter condemning it on the Internet. The rebellion also prompted the resignation of the paper's chief commentator, who felt "ashamed" after writing a fawning article praising Chinese President Hu Jintao. [3]


This is a condensed version of an article by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton first published as Flack Attack"in PR Watch, Volume 4, No. 1, First Quarter 1997.

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