How Much Of That All Important Journalism Is Really PR?
from the more-than-half,-apparently dept
We get pitched stories from PR people all the time, and probably 99.9% of them end up getting ignored and trashed — mostly because they’re not even close to relevant, but often because we have no interest in being someone’s free promotional team. What’s amusing, however, is that invariably, days after we get pitched on certain stories, I end up seeing them appear in all sorts of mainstream publications, including some of the biggest and “most trusted” names in journalism.
And yet we keep getting told that we need to “support” this all important newspaper industry so they can carry on with the important democracy-saving task of journalism?
Last year, we noted that some attempts to count how many stories a newspaper actually reported on each day showed that the numbers were woefully low — just a handful per day, with the rest all filled in with fluff and wire service copy. But it gets even more ridiculous once you realize that many of the “stories” that reporters worked on were really little more than gussied up press releases turned into “articles.”
Boing Boing points us to a recent study in Australia that looked at a week’s worth of newspaper stories, and found that more than half were placed by PR people, though there was definitely a pretty wide range depending on the newspaper.
This seems like a pretty important finding to be included in any debate about “saving” newspapers — especially when the government is talking about stepping in to tax others to prop up newspapers. If all they’re really doing is propping up efforts to run wire copy and run thinly veiled advertisements-as-news, is that really what the government should be supporting? It seems we have this mental “ideal” of journalism, represented by Woodward and Bernstein, holding politicians accountable for their actions — but that rarely happens in practice. Instead, too much of traditional journalism has become notetaking — writing down what politicians and PR people say and repeating it back to an audience that could find that information themselves if they wanted it.