Has PR Led To The Death Of Journalism?

For every journalist in America there are four PR practitioners.

So what you might ask? You might think that Journalists are irrelevant now because of the internet – who needs the six o’clock news when you have Twitter.

Well guess what? You’d be completely wrong – and here’s why:

Back when the internet was in it’s boom period Bagdikian (2000) reported that there were over 10,000 new websites or blogs being created each day.

However, to be frank – no one is really reading your blog posts.

The Googlearchy of search engines means that  ‘elite’ voices are so much stronger than the general public is because of a hidden hierarchy embedded in the Internets most popular search engine – Google.

Google ranks sites is through the rule of the most heavily linked – the number of links and the quality of links that are received. Links are highly concentrated around the top sites in certain categories.

This means that those with larger resources and traditional media conglomerates continue to dominate message production on the internet.

As a result, ‘Long Tail Theory‘,  which postulated that a small number of bloggers and websites accounted for the majority of web-traffic has proven to be the reality of bloggers, journalists and their audiences.

In fact, media dissemination on the internet is more consolidated than it is offline (Hindman, 2009).

What this means is that while anyone can speak online, not everyone is likely to be heard. With this in mind, whose opinion is more likely to be seen by the public? Increasingly it is those with large resources – Traditional media conglomerates like CNN, as well as large corporates like Nike or McDonalds.

So lets go back to the rise of PR in relation to Journalists – what does this really mean?

The internet has meant that Journalists are now reactive rather than investigatory – Journo’s need to get information out quickly and stay ahead of stories to survive.

As a result Trifiletti (2012) notes that 38% of journalists considered social media to be a primary source of information that is then corroborated with other sources.

Twenty five per cent use posts to compare different views, and 11% draw on social networks to enrich their stories.

PR people are using this to their advantage. They are inundating Journalists with press releases which in return are increasingly being replicated with no or little change.

A 2008 Pew Study found that 86% of media messages were ‘power speaking’ or PR driven, while only 14% were ‘traditional’, Journalist, or publicly driven.

This means that when PR people speak people listen.

And boy do they speak – PR departments are responsible for  51% of digital communication, 49% of blogging, 48% of social networking, and 52% of micro blogging).

John Nichols laments that these factors have led to the traditional mode of journalism as ‘gate-keeping’, ‘speaking truth to power’, and holding elites to account being increasingly rare and have instead been replaced by journalists as ‘information sharers’.

The key thing here is that information is power. Those who create, disseminate and control the flow of information and communications hold true power in society, and guess what – it’s no longer journalists or media conglomerates like Rupert Murdoch, it’s PR practitioners and the clients that they work for!

This blog post was originally posted at shawnmoodie.wordpress.com and can be found at: http://shawnmoodie.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/has-pr-led-to-the-death-of-journalism/

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