As newsroom numbers dwindle, the pervasiveness and power of public relations has become increasingly apparent, and it’s this topic Rosie O’Connor, PR executive at Bradshaw PR, explores in this opinion piece.
Half of all content in bulletins or newspapers can be traced to some kind of PR activity. But as this industry thrives, it’s matched with a steady decline of quality journalism.
For some, this shift marks the death of democracy – seeing a world dominated by PR as one that is deprived of any objective reporting.
Newsrooms, which once played host to a team of investigative reporters, now feature overstretched journalists, forced to respond to the immediacy of information the public now demands. This has created an obvious gap for PR professionals to provide “oven-ready” stories – often to be published with little or no change.
What’s more, paid content and “native advertising”, which currently drives 56 per cent of all ad revenue in the US, is expected to reach 74 per cent of content produced by 2021.
Just this month, Media Watch exposed news.com.au’s editor at large, Melissa Hoyer, for writing a glowing report about Carnival Cruise, without disclosing she had been paid by the company to host their event. Insufficient transparency, such as this, will likely cause people to feel mislead, affecting the integrity of the profession as a whole.
In the current media landscape, where the role of both journalist and publicist has been redefined – should there be an added ethical obligation on PR professionals to supply factually accurate content?
In my view, PR should act as an add-on to civil society, rather than a disruption to democracy. Instead of exploiting the fragility of the modern newsroom, PR professionals need to redefine their role and provide journalists with valuable information that society so desperately needs.
Transparency is not just in the interest of journalists, but also for those in PR who depend on the media’s credibility for maximum engagement.
Without this change, we risk losing a platform that allows us to connect with the critical mass of the population simultaneously- something that new media, in all its glory, will never achieve.