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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 Seven: New Media Practices and the Blurring of Boundaries


← 193 | 194 → CHAPTER SEVEN

As noted in the foreword, Brian Smith (2008) says that user-generated content and social media should be the focus of analysis in media content and influence today because “journalism and public relations are converging around new developments in social media” and traditional views of the relationship between journalism and PR are out-dated (p. 926). While this assertion ignores the continuing importance of traditional media in many societies, an analysis of journalism and PR today would not be complete without giving specific attention to new media practices. Again, PR is largely ignored in studies of what some call ‘new media’ (e.g., Lievrouw & Livingstone, 2002, 2005; Siapera, 2012) and others refer to as digital media (Bennett, 2008; Boler, 2008), or social media (Qualman, 2009; Solis & Breakenbridge, 2009). For instance, the only mention of PR in John Pavlik’s Media in the Digital Age refers to video news releases (VNRs) which, in fact, are a traditional PR practice mostly targeted at television (2008, p. 262).

Discussion of new/digital/social media is comprised of a mixture of transformist views, cyberoptimism, techno-utopianism, and what Steve Woolgar (2002) calls cyberbole, on one hand, and cyberpessimism, techno-cynicism, and scepticism, on the other. In a recent analysis, Kevin DeLuca, Sean Lawson, and Ye Sun say “discussion of social media is too often simplified into a debate between techno-utopians and techno-cynics” (2012, p. 485). Robin Mansell (2012) and Robert McChesney (2013) describe the two ‘camps’ as the “celebrants” and the “sceptics...

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