Monday, March 20, 2006

Journalism vs. Public Relations: why can't we be friends?

For me, the roles of journalists and PR professionals are on opposite ends of the spectrum. PR people work for a client. All their actions are meant to benefit that client. Journalists work for the people. All our actions are for the benefit of truth, thus aiding the greater good.

I have nothing against PR people. I think it is an important job. Somebody should be protecting the interests of companies and such as far as their media coverage goes. But for journalists, PR is simply a tool we use to get the information we need, and like any good tool sometimes it malfunctions. This happens mostly when PR practitioners are dishonest and sneaky with the media. Their clients do something stupid and rather than coming clean and owning up to whatever fiasco has arisen, the company’s public relations department decides to sweep things under the rug. They forget—journalists love dirty laundry.

Now, let’s be fair. Even though it is clear I am on the journalism side on this one, I have to say the status of the relationship between PR and journalists is just as much journalism’s fault as it is PR’s. For some reason, journalists like to make mountains out of molehills. Some of the so called fiascos wouldn’t be such if the media coverage was a little more careful. But still, journalism is just a tool to PR departments, just like PR is a tool for journalists. They need reporters to get their information into the public eye. But then they whine when we start printing the stories. Is it the journalists’ fault if they don’t like what we have to say? As long as the information is true and accurate, I say not at all.

The battle between PR and journalists is a delicate balance. The truth is we both need each other to do our jobs, yet at the same time there is a certain level of enmity brewing under the surface. Reporters look at PR as the hookers of journalism, selling themselves to the highest bidder. And the PR people, well they think the reporters are playing the martyr. We enjoy our penniless existence as long as we have our ethics to keep us warm at night.

Okay, that might be a little over the top. But I think it gets the point across. Journalism and PR are going to peaceable exist probably forever, but not because we want to. It’s because we have to.

1 comment:

galit said...

I really want to be friends but when you say things like, "Reporters look at PR as the hookers of journalism, selling themselves to the highest bidder.." That is why some of us can't.

Just so you know not all PR people only care about their company's image. And not all journalists seek the truth. The PR profession is striving to improve its own image all of the time. While a major branch of journalism is getting worse..TV.

Part of the Public Relations Society of America Code of Ethics: “We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” There will always be the idiot who messes up. But why classify an entire profession?