Thursday, May 19, 2011

PR and Journalism: An Evolving Relationship

A recent article published on ProPublica (and co-published by the Columbia Journalism Review), looks at how the boundaries between PR and journalism are blurring. For better or for worse, PR professionals now have much more power in terms of influencing the news, primarily because newsrooms are maxed out. Working with smaller staffs and budgets, and a news cycle that never sleeps, many media outlets are grateful for great “news” content. So when a publication receives an article written by a PR person, increasingly there is a chance that it will be published as is, or with minor edits.

What does this mean? Will this lead to abuse? Are PR people like myself writing the news? Keeping media and news sources unbiased and accurate is very important; does the presence of the PR industry and its influence represent a loss of journalistic integrity?

Not necessarily, and for a couple of reasons.

As the article PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking Newsrooms points out, any reputable publication won’t accept a story idea that is untimely, unimportant, irrelevant or self-serving. Conversely, as the PR field evolves and matures, there is a concern about the ethical dealings with journalists, and a self-awareness that serves to prevent wrongdoing. Any good PR person knows (or should know), for example, that it is professional suicide to submit an article that is biased, overtly “salesy,” or riddled with marketing speak – that is completely useless to an editors. But a great story idea, however, presented with real data and information to back it up, is absolutely acceptable and very helpful to time-strapped journalists. Perhaps that’s the point that so often goes unrecognized – that PR provides valuable support to media outlets and helps to increase its efficiency as well.

Well, we do try you know….

You can read the entire article on ProPublica here.

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