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Journalism and PR

Unpacking ‘Spin’, Stereotypes, and Media Myths

Jim Macnamara

The interrelationship between journalism and public relations (PR) is one of the most contentious in the field of media studies. Numerous studies have shown that 50–80 per cent of the content of mass media is significantly shaped by PR. But many editors, journalists, and PR practitioners engage in a ‘discourse of denial’, maintaining what critics call the dirty secret of journalism – and PR. Media practitioners also engage in an accusatory ‘discourse of spin’ and a ‘discourse of victimhood’. On the other hand, PR practitioners say they help provide a voice for organizations, including those ignored by the media. Meanwhile, the growth of social media is providing new opportunities for governments, corporations, and organizations to create content and even their own media, increasing the channels and reach of PR.
This book reviews 100 years of research into the interrelationship between journalism and PR and, based on in-depth interviews with senior editors, journalists, and PR practitioners in several countries, presents new insights into the methods and extent of PR influence, its implications, and the need for transparency and change, making it a must-read for researchers and students in media studies, journalism, public relations, politics, sociology, and cultural studies.


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Acknowledgements ix Foreword xi Chapter One: The Contentious Relationship between Journalism and PR 1 The Profession that Dares Not Speak its Name 2 ‘Churnalism’ 8 The Discourse of Denial 10 The Discourse of ‘Spin’ 12 The Discourse of Victimhood 15 The Discourses of ‘Honest Brokers’, Dialogue, and Relationships 17 The ‘Doctrine of Selective Depravity’ vs. the Moral Majority 19 Chapter Two: Understanding Journalism 22 Models and Theories of Media—What Media and Journalism Do (or Should Do) 22 The Fourth Estate and Watchdog Journalism 27 Key Political Actors in the Public Sphere 29 Cornerstone of Democracy 31 The Propaganda Model of Media 32 Cultural Intermediaries 33 vi | journalism and pr: unpacking ‘spin’, stereot ypes, and media my ths The Decline of Journalism 34 New Forms of Journalism 44 Chapter Three: Understanding Public Relations 59 Press Agents and ‘Flacks’—The Murky World of 19th-Century PR 60 PR as Counsel 62 The Four Models—PR Becomes Theorized and Legitimized? 62 Excellence Theory of PR—Normative Notions and Professionalization 69 Contemporary Critical Thinking in and about PR 70 The ‘Sociocultural Turn’ in PR 72 The Growth of PR 73 The Activities of PR 75 PR’s Skeletons—Toxic Sludge, the Gulf War, Asbestos, and Other ‘PR Disasters’ 84 Counter PR 89 Chapter Four: What 20 Years of Practice and Case Studies Reveal 93 Home Boy/Girl Stories—Everyday PR 96 Saving an Outback Town in Prime Time 99 The Journalism–PR Two-Step 100 MACRO and Microsoft 102 The Voice of Vodafone 105 Humas and Brown...

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