Wednesday, 16 April 2008

A Problem For PR?

I went along to a PR Comms event, this evening at of all places Milbank Towers, looking at PR's role in undermining the integrity of the media. There was some interesting debate, particularly from Nick Davies, author of Flat Earth News who was there to promote his book...looking at the degradation of mass media integrity.

The debate entitled, "The Media Accused", involved Elisabeth Lewis-Jones - president, CIPR, Jon Bernstein - multimedia editor, Channel 4 News and Danny Rogers - editor, PR Week all debating the role PR had had to play in taking advantage of the media's weakness in identifying news of value and truth to the public.

While there was much debate around the extent to which the media had succumbed to the pressures of deadlines and the, "economics of journalism" making itself vulnerable to the opportunistic (or manipulative skills) of PR....depending on what side you were on I found it interesting that the panellists expressed an uncertainty upon the future of the media's relationship with PR.

While Nick Davies presented a very strong thesis in which journalists have been weakened by the increase in stories and a decrease in staff there seemed to be very few answers in what can be done to improve the 'state we're in'.

While a solution was proposed where a private body could reveal the extent to which each newspaper was influenced by PR...Surely a good PR campaign in itself for an independent regulating body...non? There was little hope expressed for the future of the media as it became increasingly at the mercy of the clutches of us, 'manipulative pr's'.

I personally think that allot of value added by the PR community to the media is not all manipulative but perhaps more constructive as Elisabeth Lewis-Jones, president of the CIPR pointed out.

In the near future I think that Google's steps into Universal Search are going to have an increasing role to play in giving the media back it's integrity to an extent particularly in areas of specialized or vertical content where brand value for publishers like The Times and The Guardian will become more important.

While the relationship between PR and the media is an indicative product of what Habermas called the commoditization of mass media it is neither helpful nor effective when borne out in the most unsubtle ways as by the Conservative Party and Labour Party in the pictures above...but I guess they are politicians…as a PR man I wouldn’t understand it's a matter of communication of truth.

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