“Journalists don’t like PR people”, says Trevor Morris. As Visiting Professor in Public relations at the University of Westminster and former CEO of Chime Public relations – the UK’s largest PR group – it’s a safe bet to say he’s well placed to comment.
So why the antagonistic relationship between two industries that should surely want to stick together, two industries that surely must work on an I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine basis?
It is thought by some that 80% of newsprint has its roots in PR. As Nick Davies illustrates in his book ‘Flat Earth News’, an analysis of the countries five best newspapers, 60% of stories comprised wholly or widely from PR or newswire sources with a further 20% displaying clear elements of PR and newswire sourced material. Writes Sean Carson…
So it’s clear then that journalism is reliant upon PR. But is this dependence on material from these media relations houses as large as they believe, and is this argument just a thin veil for how much PR is reliant upon journalists?
It’s here that the issue of transparency rears its ugly head. When asked are journalists just the puppets of the PR industry? Trevor responds, “It’s impossible for any organisation to function with complete transparency.” True PR-speak if ever I’ve heard it. In truth what Trevor means, but cleverly disguises in order to support his argument for PR, is that journalists are needed by PR people.
Journalists allegedly provide an impartial, bias-free outlook on events and are therefore surely the ideal weapon at the disposal of any media relations department. So again, why the tension between the two? It would be impossible for any PR company to promote their cause in an impartial manner and it is therefore, in my opinion, the reason that the PR industry is so reliant upon journalists – not that journalists are manipulated by PR departments as Trevor states.
Trevor puts the dislike between journalists and employees of the public relations sector down to “competitive tension” and that “it would be extremely unusual for journalists and PR people to be all lovey dovey.” But there are arguments both for and against PR and journalism respectively.
Does the power of PR need to be curtailed? Should journalists be more honest and reveal the extent to which they use PR? These are questions that could be debated to the nth degree and as such, ones that we will probably never be able to answer fully.
PR is obviously all about image whereas you might say, and some might argue this point, that journalism is more about the truth. Whatever you believe I’ll leave you with the words of A.A. Gill, “I think PR is a ridiculous job. They are the headlice of civilisation.”
You can make up your own mind.