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A couple of PR pros have shared some thoughtful insights into the relationship between journalists and public relations practitioners. Much appreciated. Here are excerpts:
Dave: As someone working on the PR side, I know there's variety here -- there are PR people who will die on any hill for their employer, and there are PR people who quit on the spot when asked to cross the line, and everything in between.
I'm sure it's the same way with journalists: most of the journalists that we don't hear about often have probably done an amazing job year in and year out of reporting news that needs to be heard. We hear about a few scattered journalists that cross the line, and there are certainly journalists who have stood strong when asked to make changes they didn't agree with.
Maybe the problem is that we get stuck on lumping everyone together and assuming that someone who is unhelpful once can never be helpful in the future. If we treat each new story as an opportunity for both sides to meet our goals, we'll probably go farther.
(A significant and frequent problem emerges when the public sector forgets that it's not the private sector and operates with eroded commitment to public service. That's a common complication in coverage of government on the local, state and federal levels, and it's one reason why open records and open meeting laws exist. See this Dallas Morning News blog for a great example. -- David)
It is true that for public information officers or communications directors sometimes we have to get to the information tucked away inside government agencies. We know journalists would prefer to speak directly with the internal expert and source and in most cases this is our preference, too. However, there are times when we cannot provide information for privacy, personnel protection, and other various legal reasons. It is highly frustrating when these actions are then turned around and interpreted as obfuscation when our hands are simply tied.
Maybe it would have been better for these panelists to give examples and wishes of how to make the relationship better for both sides than to slam a profession.
(The federal government has shuttered many windows via, for instance, the Patriot Act and HIPPA, setting excessive boundaries on secrecy that state and local governments have embraced. One consequence is further strain on the relationship between journalists and pr practitioners whose hands are tied by law and who are subjected unfairly to criticism. More on this later. -- David)
What do you think? More thoughts, please.
Posted at 01:35 PM in Public relations | Permalink
Dallas Morning News, HIPPA, journalism, Patriot Act, private sector, public relations, public sector
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Interesting. I have been involved in the tensions between citizen journalists (bloggers and the like) and traditional journalists but adding a triangulation with Public Relations complicates the picture in a useful way. I would be interested in seeing more extensively how public relations has had to change with rising technology, and whether public relations might have more in common with citizen journalism than traditional professional journalism. There are some great interviews with journalists about the future of journalism and the changes new developments demand at http://www.ourblook.com/component/option,com_sectionex/Itemid,200076/id,8/view,category/#catid69
June 19, 2009 at 12:33 PM
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