The relationship between PR and journalism – is it as bad as it seems?

Whilst researching public relations and journalism for my dissertation it came to my attention that almost everyone in the industry has an opinion on the relationship – and almost everyone’s opinion is negative.

Even though there are hundreds of academic books and journals written in the dark ages that describe the “uneasy” and “distrusting” relationship and although there are countless blogs that list the ways in which PR pros annoy journalists and vice versa; does this really represent today’s situation? Is it really as bad as everybody makes out?

I came to the decision to compose the unspoken side of the story and point out the positives of the relationship:

Journalism and PR are fields with much in common; they have similar purposes – to inform the public and both share the need of information, access and editorial coverage.

A strong PR to journalist relationship benefits each side of the fence, and creates mutual dependence; the press is the largest outlet to inform a mass public which is why PR teams are constantly contacting journalists in hope that they will cover stories on their clients.  And with newsroom cuts and the increasing speed of technology; journalists have twice the workload and half the time to carry out investigative reporting meaning journalists often turn to PR practitioners for story pitches, press releases, and quick answers to their questions.

Technological developments have eased the strain of the relationship. PR hasn’t been primarily about the printed page in years – it has become a world of social media and digital expertise meaning journalists are no longer the exclusive gate keepers to access of free publicity. Websites, blogs and social media have become alternative methods of communication, which are quicker to publish and reach all the right people.

That being said, it does not mean that journalism now relies on public relations. Journalism has also adapted with the digital age and is no longer just about the newspaper either. Social media interactivity allows journalists to quickly pick up breaking news and arrange interviews giving them greater access to information without having to involve PRs.

However, when all is said and done, it is without doubt that the two industries will always need each other and will always work hand in hand, meaning that journalists will always have to talk to PR pros and vice versa. The practice of journalism and public relations is bound to run more smoothly if the negative stereotypes were forgotten and the relationship is strengthened.

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