Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Journalism and Public Relations

For those of you who didn’t know (that’s probably all of you), I’m taking public relations class along with journalism class this semester. The perspective this provides has been most amusing.

Journalists often have to work with PR officers for their news. In fact if the deadline is tight, that’s all they might have: materials given by the PR officer. In the age where news circulation is plummeting and one paper after another is closing down its bureaus or even the paper altogether, this is in fact often the case. There will be little chance for second opinions, never mind things like ICIJ’s (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) year-long investigation into links between tobacco companies and smuggling operations. The few journalists who managed to keep their jobs have to cover more news in less time, and working closely with PR officers, for better or worse, is just one time-saving method.

On the other hand, PR officers rely heavily on journalists to get their message out. Nothing beats getting free publicity via media coverage. Although the PR officers have less control over it (duh… its free. What did you expect?), and the editor/journalist might decline to publish it, at least media reports are deemed more credible by readers (and its free!).

Now the fun part.

Both sides regard themselves as professionals, hold high ideals, and consider their services a public service (yes, even the PR people).

While studying both disciplines however, I can’t help but sense a different view between of this sense of idealism and what the other party thinks. At best, the views are very “pragmatic”, as a means to an end. At worst, it is of mutual suspicion and veiled contempt.

The fact that investigative journalism exists and its practitioners are very highly respected speaks volumes about what journalists (and the public) think of PR officers. Dig around a little. If you find some mess and publish it, you’re public hero #1. No, that’s mostly the PR officer’s employer’s fault. Its not really their fault other than the fact that their ideals include “tell the truth” =p

On the other hand, my PR notes have sentences that read:

“…in editorials around the country, the media debated its own role in escalating the scare and subjecting business and consumers to the fear and disruption of unsubstantiated product tampering claims.”

--(On media coverage of copycat complaints during the 1993 Pepsi Syringe Scare)

“All you have to do is: know reporters deadlines; recognize how they like to be pitched; tell the truth; and always be available. Pretty simple, right?”

-- On media relations

I can’t help but think the the first quote was written with a sense of satisfaction, and the second… I’m not sure what to say of it.

I’m not sure how will I benefit from this revelation either. Maybe I’ll come to appreciate better when I actually go to work, or maybe even next morning once I get some badly needed bedtime. Nonetheless, It is an interesting observation.

Its nice to see both sides of the coin.


Blogger Tibbar de Gniw said... <--- I read this some time ago, didn't think I'd see this topic in any blogs again

March 06, 2009 1:45 AM  

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