Monday, May 23, 2011

Are public relation practitioners journalists, or just a source for them?

Charlotte O'Malley

Is being in a court of law and swearing on a bible the only time that people should be expected to tell “the truth, the whole truth, so help [them] G-d?” Reading this week’s readings, and most specifically David Martinson’s article “ ‘Truthfulness’ in Communication Is Both a Reasonable and Achievable Goal for Public Relations Practicioners,” the portrait painted of PR representatives who deceptively exclude information from the public while maintaining that they are presenting all information honestly reminds me of my own sneaky tactics of getting around telling the whole truth to my parents when I was in high school.

Even now, as most people keep two different internet servers on their computer and we have endless access to online material that gives us a view into the private lives of public people, we are all still consuming information from the restrictive funnel of public relations practicioners. This is what makes my sneaky high school behavior analogous to public relations. It’s also comparable to the foot-in-the-door-technique, in that PR practicioners give the public just enough information to make them back off and feed off the given information. What is disconcerting however, is that much like my high school self, I know that PR representatives are holding something back. Whenever a scandal arises, I am more clouded by the thoughts of what information I’m NOT receiving, versus the grim material that the PR reps are feeding to satisfy the public.

Another question that I think is worth considering is how much PR has changed due to social networking. It seems as if PR takes advantage of of the fast-paced online journalism field by providing information to journalists (mostly without being asked) because they know journalists need a source—and fast. So what role does public relations play in the field of journalism? According to this article from Greenslade Blog, 62% of news stories use public relations as a source for their stories.

So should PR practicioners be considered journalists or just a source for journalists? Because of their loyalty to their clients, I do not think that this obvious bias would allow for their jobs to copacetic with the ethical codes of The Society of Professional Journalists. I am aware they have a lengthy ethics code of their own, but if all branches of journalism except for PR can refer to one ethics code and they cannot, I think this signifies a big difference between their job and that of journalists. Journalism is for the people, written by the people. Information must be presented without bias and without loyalty to those who it concerns, but this is absolutely impossible for PR reps. The art of “the spin” has spun them out of the journalistic field and into a field of their own. Public relations cannot be considered journalism, and is such a unique and fragile field that it should only be considered in the realm of itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment