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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 Six: Journalism and PR Today—An International Qualitative Study

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← 143 | 144 → CHAPTER SIX

This chapter reports the findings of an international qualitative study of the interrelationship between journalism and PR based on in-depth interviews with 32 senior journalists and PR practitioners in the US, UK, Australia, and in one developing country. Nine of the interviews were conducted during a pilot study in 2008, leading to a critical analysis of this data and extant literature in 2012, followed by 20 interviews specifically conducted during 2013 as part of researching this book. A further three interviews conducted as part of another study of media in developing countries were drawn on for the unique perspective that they provide.

The pilot study used a purposive sample of information technology and telecommunications (IT) journalists (n = 4) and IT sector PR practitioners (n = 5) in Australia to explore relationships and interactions. This sector was selected for the pilot study as it is serviced by a large contingent of specialist media and writers, and IT companies are among leading spenders on PR (World PR Report, 2013). Then, to gain more broad-based and informed insights, the sampling frame for ← 144 | 145 → the 20 interviews conducted in 2013 was journalists and PR practitioners with 20 years or more experience in their fields across multiple sectors in the UK, US, and Australia. As it turned out, a number of interviewees had experience in both journalism and PR, a not unusual occurrence due to a long-standing trend of journalists moving into PR, and it is considered...

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