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PR and Journalism

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Университет Российской Академии Образования

Нижегородский филиал

Факультет экономики и бизнеса

Реферат

Тема: «PR and Journalism»

выполнила студентка III курса

факультета экономики и бизнеса

специальность: связи с общественностью

Кришталь И.А

проверил: к.п.н., доцент Паршина Н.А

Н.Новгород

2009

Contents

Introduction

Theoretical Starting Points

Media and PR in Society

The Editorial Conditions

PR Agents’ and Journalists’ Perceptions of Each Other

Conclusion

List of the literature

Introduction

In many countries, the PR industry has undergone significant growth in
recent decades. In Sweden today, the number of active communications
experts is seven times that at the beginning of the 1990s. Through this
significant growth, PR agents have established themselves as an
important group alongside parties traditionally considered being part of
the democratic process.

Public relations have become a significant and powerful industry,
particularly in recent decades. This industry and its actors mainly work
through the media to spread information, persuasion and opinions to the
public on behalf of their clients. Publicity is the predominant goal.
Networking, relation-building, news production and activities intended
to be published in the media are thus part of the everyday work of PR
agents such as information officers and PR consultants. The PR
phenomenon needs to be examined and scrutinized as a new party and power
in the democratic process. In recent years, some international studies
have taken on this mission, but there is scope for more studies on
different aspects of the phenomenon.

In this work we are focused on the relation between the PR industry and
the news media.

The main themes and questions are: What characterizes the relation
between the PR industry and the media or between PR agents and
journalists? The work starts by outlining some of the pertinent
circumstances concerning the relation between the parties as well as
their view of each other.

Theoretical Starting Points

The news media are the most outstanding, common, and important channel
for interest groups to get their messages out and influence their
surroundings. A focus on media has, in fact, grown in importance to
these agents, especially concerning those active on the scene of policy
shaping in the broader sense. The media work has become a more central
part of political activity in recent years.

Studies of the relation between the PR industry and the news media show
that PR actors and journalists often establish close relations in order
to fulfill a mutual need.

The influence of the PR industry appears in many different shapes in
daily life. It involves anything from traditional press conferences and
press releases to various more or less successful long-term
agenda-setting-related activities. Among other things, strategies for
controlling the news agenda are based on producing and serving the media
with material that promotes the instrumental purposes of the senders’
interests. This type of media influence and strategies for controlling
the news agenda are today often referred to by the concept news
management. Meanwhile, news material from sources outside the media may
also be seen as a contribution to journalistic work and as a way of
cutting costs. Observations in line with this point of view have made
way for the theory of information subsidy, meaning efforts by policy
actors to increase the consumption of persuasive messages by reducing
their costs. A reasonably large proportion of published articles
originate from external sources – in fact, more than half of the studied
published articles stem from material originating from outside sources.

There is reason to argue that, in recent times, the theory of
information subsidy has increased its relevance to the everyday
journalism reality as a consequence of the financial and personnel
cutbacks many news organizations have undergone. Some analysts claim
that this type of contact and exchange has forced journalism to become
increasingly dependent on, and more easily affected by, outside
influences – a transformation of professional conduct that has resulted
in a more alienated journalism. According to Davis (2002), the cutbacks
are one explanation of the fact that PR practitioners have come to
strongly influence today’s news agenda. He argues that the material they
present has become extremely successful in passing itself off as ‘real
news’, and thereby, to a great extent, PR people have “worked to erode
the autonomy of journalists at the micro level”. Other researchers
follow this line:

What passes for news of politics is often an inextricable mixture of
messages from different sources. Advertising, public relations, reports
of opinion polls, and propaganda become mixed up in the news product
along with facts and editorial opinions. It certainly tends to undermine
any simple faith in the reliability and independence of news.

Media and PR in Society

The news media are the most prominent instrument for disseminating
information in society. The media have become an increasingly important
stage for organizations’ external communication. Editor of a business
magazine:

«Today, the media are the most important marketplace – all important
deals are settled in the media sphere /…/. And as everyone is squeezed
together on the same media scene, it becomes very loud, very crowded and
very short of oxygen. That’s where the PR business comes in» (Editor,
business magazine).

The media, however, do not constitute a platform with actors of equal
importance to PR practitioners. Rather, the media sphere appears as a
media hierarchy. Typically, the largest radio and television stations
along with the large national newspapers constitute the most important
targets for PR activities. Within television, news programmes are
especially sought after, followed by talk shows and entertainment
programmes. For PR activities directed at the print media, the editorial
and debate pages of the daily morning newspapers are essential targets.
When it comes to activities such as product promotions and launches,
trade magazines and other types of specialized press increase in ranking
and become a high priority. For opinion-generating campaigns, regional
and local media are also of interest. However, the latter types of media
organizations pick up PR-related information mostly through news
agencies, and thus their journalists experience little direct connection
with PR agents.

The features of the relationship between PR agents and news journalists
vary with the type of organization or consultancy they represent.
Journalists often claim a skeptical approach to those representing
commercial interests, as journalistic norms have long deemed textual
product placement despicable. Representation in the interest of
political organizations, on the other hand, sets a different tone
because of these organizations’ position as being fundamental to a
democratic society and therefore considered to be legitimate opinion
leaders. Their actions thus become “in the interest of the public”.
Public authorities are also by their nature obvious targets of media
observation.

Between the corporate interest groups and the political groupings stands
a middle-category – the non-profit organizations. Non-profit
organizations with a clear social ideology are often treated much like a
party or public authority by the media. Furthermore, representatives of
non-social ideology groupings often aim for publicity by trying to pass
off their PR-activities as relevant to policy or community matters,
regardless of whether this is actually the case. In other words, they
attempt to move the characterization of a specific organization and its
activities from the commercial sphere up to the societal/political one.
However, one can say that the media’s perceived understanding of the
potential social impact of the organizations the PR-agents represent
largely determines the conditions for the relation.

The Editorial Conditions

The impact potential of the news media is of course a crucial factor in
why journalists are a prioritized target of actions taken by the PR
industry. However, there are at least two additional reasons for why
media publicity is considered the best way to reach the public – and
thereby to achieve a desired image and swing public opinion or parts of
it in a favorable direction.

First, publication in the media has a higher level of credibility than
other communication channels do. Second, compared to advertising, media
publicity is a cost-effective method.

It should be added that today’s senders, whether they are professionals
within an organization or hired consultants, find it fairly easy to get
material published in newspapers. The prevailing conditions are the
result of decreases in editorial staff in recent years and increasing
demands for raised production goals for each journalist. “Today, we are
so pressed by shrinking advertising revenue and diminishing circulation
rates, that we try to save, we cut back wherever we can”, said one
editor. The work climate has created an increasingly stressful situation
and resulted in less time for journalistic fieldwork, especially with
regard to investigative efforts. That, in turn, has created an increased
need for access to raw material from sources outside of the news desks.
The senders – or agents promoting a specific interest – are well aware
of the situation and use it consciously:

The everyday work of a journalist is very stressful /So/ they often
consider contacts with PR agents as useful, if we practice serious work
conduct and do no gold digging. Because we know exactly what journalists
want (PR Consultant).

The information flow directed towards the editorial staff has thus
allegedly increased, partly as a result of a much more flexible attitude
towards promotion-related activities from the communications sector.

Today the news desks experience an in-flow of information never seen
before, especially from the corporate sector. The input is overwhelming
– if previously it was a stream, it’s now more like a river. Handling
this flood of information is problematic, and there is a risk that
journalists will get caught up in it and thereby decrease their ability
to control the news agenda.

This raises questions of whether the media may become dependent on this
subsidy of information and material. Some journalists reflecting over
their own work situation suggested there is a risk that reporters will
become dependent on the influence of different activist experts. Even
journalists with special beats sometimes experience a lack of knowledge,
especially those within technical, medical and natural-science-related
subject areas: “While we become too specialized we also become too
dependent”, said one public service TV journalist.

PR people call both openly and under cover to try to sell an idea to us.
It’s presented in a very feasible way and then we’re under extreme
pressure to put together a paper for the next day. They know our work
situation and they know exactly what things to pull.

By serving the media with news material, the activities of PR actors
have caused their industry to move towards taking on the shape of a news
desk located outside the media.

PR Agents’ and Journalists’ Perceptions of Each Other

The PR experts’ and journalists’ views of each other differ a great
deal. It seems that, in principle, many representatives of the PR
industry have great respect for journalism and the media’s role in
society. They underline the media’s obligation to review the PR sphere
just as they expect journalists to do with other social phenomena. At
the same time, some of the PR actors in reality showed less respect for
the media’s professional task, as attempts to manipulate or steer the
media in a favorable way seemed acceptable. Even among those who claimed
a profound respect for the media, instrumental aims became discernible.

Hardly any of the journalists expressed a corresponding respect for the
PR agents. In principle, PR experts, especially consultants, were
described as opponents, in line with the general normative thinking of
journalism, which supports the view that PR people are to be kept at a
distance. They are “my most important opponents,” claimed one journalist
of a national newspaper and continued by saying that the group has
become so “unbelievably much more clever with what they do”. As PR
agents inevitably exist in the media professionals’ work context,
journalists are forced to respect them in the same matter as one has to
respects an opponent:

I dislike the phenomenon /PR consultants/ terribly. But I do realize
that ‘this is the way it is’ and what am I to do? They’re a part of
today’s society. And an influential part too (Editor, evening
newspaper).

Journalists’ mainly skeptical approach to PR is familiar to those
working in the PR sphere. It is mirrored in the strategies of the latter
– how to present material as well as how to present themselves in order
to establish contact – and perhaps also in their professional
self-image. Some of the consultants pointed to the fact that they are
always straightforward in their contacts with the media and always
explain whom or what interests they represent.

In their comments on PR agents, a journalists tended to group
information officers and consultants. The journalistic approach seems to
be that there is actually no need for any PR agents. Meanwhile, in
reality, the relation in itself may function differently depending on
whether a PR person is placed inside or outside an organization – the
latter case often making it more restrained. Still, some journalists
claimed to make use of consultants in terms of information overviews and
ideas for suitable sources. In addition, while they also fill a
censoring role, information officers admittedly seem to be useful in
negotiating contacts higher up in the organizations. Journalists,
however, often find these officers annoying, as they want to speak with
the person in charge; they do not to wish to get the answers “filtered
through representatives one has to go by”.

In this specific matter, journalists and PR consultants actually seem to
agree. The latter claimed they should never be the voice of the
organization they represent. Rather, their work is to organize the
contact set up. It is always the client who should talk to the
journalists, and “it would be absurd to have a consultant between the
journalist and the corporation”. Yet many journalists claimed that they
are constantly subject to information flows controlled by PR
consultants. The discrepancy in the perception of the situation is
likely to be a result of opposing relational perspectives on who
controls the terms for the contact and in whose interest it is taken.

Journalists’ mainly skeptical and negative approach to PR experts was
accompanied by an attitude of rejection towards them when discussions
during the interview sessions lead to the topic of what the relationship
is actually like in reality. When the PR agents, on the other hand,
voiced their opinion about the same reality, it was largely through
opposite understandings of good and well-working relationships, common
interests and sometimes collaboration.

Conclusion

The news media are the main channel for disseminating information and
controlling public opinion in favour of a particular group’s interests.
Accordingly, obtaining media publicity is an important aim of the PR
industry. This fact leads to the almost trivial assumption that there is
a connection between those who aim to influence the media and those who
work in the news business.

The contacts between PR agents and journalists are extensive, in the
sense that they are frequent, and mainly initiated by the former. Thus,
journalists are constantly the designated targets of PR activities.
According to both parties, personal relationships generally appear to be
rare.

The views of the two parties are divided. PR agents commonly declare a
high level of respect for the norms of journalistic conduct and for the
media’s role in a democratic society. They also view their relation with
the media as well functioning. The journalists, on the other hand,
generally express less respect for people working with PR and claim they
do not have any established relations with them, even if they admit to
often being approached by PR agents.

Furthermore their views on the outcome of this relation differ
significantly. PR actors claim that they often succeed in their efforts
to get publicity out of the news material produced. But, as they
declare, there is no attempt to influence journalism; they just “deliver
news ideas”. Editors and journalists, on the other hand, agree that they
frequently receive promotional materials from different organizations or
consultants, but more or less resolutely state that they hardly ever
consider using that type of material. In other words, the flow of PR
material is no great problem in their eyes, as they are usually able to
unmask the instrumental ends. In other words, the gatekeeper function
works.

The PR actors’ high level of respect for journalism, its role in society
and its integrity should be contrasted to PR work practises that
inevitably aim at providing publicity for a particular version of
reality. Meanwhile, journalists’ generally sceptical attitude towards PR
activities should be measured against reality: the media clearly publish
news stemming from PR material. PR sphere is highly successful in
achieving its aims, that is, the media do in fact publish material
originating from this sphere to a quite great extent. Even if the
contacts are said to be mostly one-sided – and mainly initiated by the
PR sphere – they might well, in reality, constitute a two-way process.
Through networking activities, the PR agents create awareness among
journalists about their existence, which in turn increases their chances
of being contacted by reporters in search of information. Thus, the PR
industry always has suitable informative material ready for delivery.
Some of the journalists interviewed in the present study stated that PR
agents facilitate the journalistic task in this way.

PR actions and activities within the frames of the PR industry result in
an in-flow of news material and a constant marketing of ideas directed
at the news desks. Simultaneously, editorial staffs are – and have been
for some time now – subject to increasing restraints in personnel and
resources, meaning less ability do conduct in-house research and a
greater dependence on material sent from outside sources.

List of the literature

1. Allern, Sigurd (1997) Nar kildene byr opp till dans. Oslo: Pax
Forlag.

2. Bennett, Lance & Manheim, Robert (2001) ‘The Big Spin. Communication
and the Transformation of Pluralist Democracy’, in Bennett & Entman
(ed.) Mediated Politics. Communication in The Future of Democracy.
Cambridge University Press.

3. Blumler, Jay & Gurevitch, Michael (1995) The Crisis of Public
Communication. London: Routledge.

4. Blumler, Jay (1990) ‘Elections, the Media ant the Modern Publicity
Process’, in Ferguson (ed.) Public Communication, The New Imperatives.
London: Sage.

5. Cameron, Glen; Sallot, Lynne & Curtin, Patricia (1997) ‘Public
Relations and the Production of News. A Critical Review and Theoretical
Framework’, in Burleson (ed.) Communication Yearbook 20. Thousand Oaks:
Sage.

6. Washington DC: The Brooking Institute. Cottle, Simon (2003)
Introduction, in Cottle (ed.) News, Public Relations and Power. London:
Sage. Davis, Aeron (2002) Public Relations Democracy: Public Relations,
Politics and the Mass Media in Britain.

7. Manchester University Press. Ericson, Richard et.al. (1989)
Negotiating Control. A study of News Sources. Milton Keynes/ London:
Open

University Press.

8. Franklin, Bob (1994). Packaging Politics. Political Communication in
Britain’s Media Democracy. London: Edward Arnold.

9. Gandy, Oscar (1992) Public Relations and Public Policy, in Toth &
Heath (ed.) Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations.
Hillsdale, J.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum. Gans, Herbert (1979) Deciding What’s
News. New York: Pantheon.

10. Larsson, Larsake (2006) Public Relations and Democracy. A Swedish
Perspective, in L’Etang & Pieczka (ed.)

Public Relations. Critical Debates and Contemporary Problems. Mahway,
New Jersey: Lawrence Erl-baum.

11. Larsson, Larsake (2005) Opinionsmakarna. /The Opinion Makers. A
Study of PR Actors,Journalists and Democracy/. Lund: Studentlitteratur.
Larsson, Larsake (1998) Nyheter i samspel /News in co-operation/.
Gothenburg: Goteborg University. Manning, Paul (2001) News and News
Sources. A Critical Introduction. London: Sage.

12. McNair, Brian (2000) Journalism and Democracy. London: Routledge.

13. McQuail, Denis; Graber, Doris & Norris, Pippa (1998) Conclusions.
Challenges for Public Policy, in Graber, McQuail & Norris (ed.) The
Politics of News, The News of Politics. Washington: Congressional
Quarterly.

14. Pfetsch, Barbara (1998) Government News Management, in Graber,
McQuail & Norris (ed.) The Politics of News, The News of Politics.
Washington: Congressional Quarterly. Street. John (2001) Mass media.
Politics and Democracy. London: Palgrave.

15. Wien, Charlotte & Lund, Anker Brink (2001) Flid, fedt og snyd –
Kildens leg med Journalisten, I Nielsen, Mie Fem0 (ed.) Profit og
offentlighet—public relations for viderekomne. Frederiksberg:
Samfundslitteratur.

16. LARSAKE LARSSON, Ph.d., Professor, School of Humanities, Education
and Social Sciences, Orebro University,

17. [email protected]

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