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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 Two: Understanding Journalism

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← 21 | 22 → CHAPTER TWO

In order to examine the relationship between journalism and public relations, we need an agreed understanding of each field of practice—a starting point from which to proceed. While this is not a textbook on journalism or PR, and does not purport to present a comprehensive analysis of journalism and the role of media, the key concepts and theories of what journalism is and what it does in societies need to be identified so that the interventions and impact of PR can be studied in appropriate and relevant ways. Also, new and emerging forms of journalism are examined in order to look forward in this analysis and not simply review the past. While the basic principles and models of journalism may be well understood by journalism scholars and students, they may find analysis of new forms of journalism useful. For researchers, educators, and students in other disciplines, this chapter provides a foundation for critical analysis of the interrelationship between journalism and PR and its implications and impact.

The role and functions of media in society are understood and examined within a number of broad theoretical frameworks. These include political economy, which ← 22 | 23 → focuses on ownership and financial and political influence on media (Mosco, 2009; McChesney, 2003, 2013); neomarxism, which sees media as part of a ‘culture industry’ that creates inauthentic culture and coerces citizens as ‘consumers’ (Adorno, 1991; Adorno & Horkheimer, 1972); and the potpourri of cultural studies, which draws on...

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