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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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Chapter One: The Contentious Relationship between Journalism and PR


c h a p t e r o n e “The fingerprints of PR are all over the news” (journalist Miriam Cosic, 2008, para. 7). “It’s the invisible hand behind much of the news, the sophisticated spin machine that can rescue reputations or crucify a competitor. And some of its practitioners will stop at nothing” (journalist Jane Cadzow, 2001, p. 20, in a major feature article titled ‘The Hidden Persuaders’). “The PR industry…consciously fabricates news” (Nick Davies, 2009, p. 203, in Flat Earth News). “PR fabricates pseudo­evidence…pseudo­events…pseudo­leaks…pseudo­pictures… pseudo­illnesses…pseudo­groups” (Nick Davies, 2009, pp. 172–193). “Increasingly…[news] is unfiltered public relations generated surreptitiously by cor­ porations and governments” (critical media scholar Robert McChesney, 2013, p. 183). “The PR industry now plays a powerful and pivotal role in the gathering, packaging, and distribution of news and information” (Andrew Currah, 2009, p. 61, in a report by The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University). “This huge industry of manipulation—targeted at structurally vulnerable media— feeds falsehood and distortion directly into our news channels” (Nick Davies, 2009, p. 167). The Contentious Relationship between Journalism and PR 2 | journalism and pr: unpacking ‘spin’, stereot ypes, and media my ths “The growth of PR is threatening the integrity of the press” (title of Westminster University debate, as cited in McCrystal, 2008, p. 47). “Spin has been the most corrosive element to hit journalism in my lifetime…the ten­ tacles of spin...

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