Could PR People Replace Journalists?
from the oh,-the-horrors dept
Romenesko points us to a column by Tim Cavanaugh taking this concept one step further: suggesting that a subset of PR people may end up taking on the role of investigative journalists. Now, I'm sure plenty of journalists are cringing at the concept -- and certainly, as someone who gets bombarded daily with idiotic story pitches that are spun to such ridiculous levels I can only laugh at them (as I hit delete), it makes me cringe a bit. But some of his points are worth thinking about. First, he notes that the number of PR jobs has been growing rapidly -- and that, fundamentally, there are a lot of similarities between the two jobs (in fact, many people go from one to the other), in that a key role is putting together a good "story."
And though it's considered wise to believe the contrary, these communications types are not constructing all these news items entirely (or even mostly) by lying. Flackery requires putting together credible narratives from pools of verifiable data. This activity is not categorically different from journalism. Nor is the teaching value that flackery provides entirely different from that of journalism: Most of the content you hear senators and congressmen reading on C-SPAN is stuff flacks provided to staffers....No, it's certainly not the perfect solution (but what is?). But the main point is that there are other ways to get investigations done and get information out there... and then there's still lots of room for others to pour through the info to see what's real and what's not. I don't think that PR people will replace investigative journalism by any stretch of the imagination, but it's worth thinking about how they certainly may pick up the slack in some areas.
But the idea of public relations (and its many fancy permutations, from "image management" to "oppo research" to "crisis") replacing objective journalism becomes less scary when you reflect that, pace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the cast of High School Musical 3, we are not all in this together. Communications is a highly competitive environment, and it is becoming more competitive. Frequently the most valuable information comes out just because somebody wants to make somebody else look bad.