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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 Four: What 20 Years of Practice and Case Studies Reveal

Extract

← 92 | 93 → CHAPTER FOUR

While Chapter 3 provides a summary of descriptive and normative theories and models of PR, as well as a brief insight into the specific practices of PR and some widely reported case studies, literature in research monographs, journals, and textbooks gives only a broad brush picture of what PR practitioners actually do. This chapter is designed to put some ‘flesh on the bones’ of the industry and field of practice outlined in Chapter 3. If we are going to critically analyze what PR practitioners do on a regular basis, and the implications of what they do, we need a close-up view of practices, rather than rely solely on what academics or journalists say they do. A view exclusively from the academy or the external position of an independent researcher can miss the nuances, unwritten rules, and conventions that are learned in daily work and fail to fully appreciate the rich texture of these fast-moving, dynamic fields at the applied level.

This chapter summarizes a number of additional case studies of PR practice based on autoethnography, a derivative of ethnography that uses observations undertaken during personal experience subjected to reflective and reflexive analysis. Autoethnography has its methodological limitations including subjectivity, as will be discussed in this chapter, but it also has its benefits—in particular, its capacity to ground research in deep understanding of a field and provide what is termed ‘thick description’.

← 93 | 94 → Clifford Geertz (1973) describes ethnography as...

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