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Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Newsroom Is Run By Publicists


I view the public relations industry as one that does a service – providing an opportunity to give voice to the unknown and helping the media to discover new experts and reliable sources.  But some PR professionals are willing to lie, bullshit, and manipulate the facts to suit them.  And some members of the media will complain about working with flacks even though they know that a good publicist saves them time and energy.

It looks like the PR industry and news media are moving in opposite directions, however.

First, look at their size.  According to Pew Research Center, over 202,000 PR practitioners are circulating.  But there are only 43,600 journalists.  That means publicists outnumber journalists by almost a 5 to 1 ratio.  And they out-earn them.  For every buck made by a promoter, journalists pocket $.65.  Overworked, understaffed, and underpaid – with decreased job security – today’s journalist struggles to make a living, do a decent job, and keep up with the competition while being barraged by a nation of professional influencers.

Even though I’m a promoter and marketer, I’m also a citizen of the US and I don’t want to see the news media shrink in its size, influence, or ability to do its job.  But I recognize that circumstances could now corrupt the institution of the news and freedom of the press.

Journalists are short on time to vet information provided by outside sources.  As editorial staffs shrink, there is a decreased ability for the news media to counter press release claims and interrogate those who claim to have relevant knowledge for the story.  All too often, journalists are relaying assertions but not really giving them context or perspective.  Spin doctors, partisan voices and special interests overwhelm those who must judge facts and explore theories.

Too many stories, according to some studies, have been found to be incorrect, biased, or based on only one source.  Further, the media at times fails to disclose conflicts of interest regarding sources.  The independence of the media no longer depends on remaining free from government controls but from the PR industry representing corporations, celebrities, politicians, groups, authors, and so many others.

However, that said, there are more checks and balances on the media – and on those the media reports on.  Citizen journalists online potentially could serve as a means to keep things in line.  But many bloggers and websites lack resources, training, or even the interest in being a watchdog.

For now, publicists are running the newsroom, but that will change once the newsroom expands online and new institutions are formed to ensure the media is truly free.  Until then, be aware of everything you read, see, hear, or download.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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