Media Musings Blog Archive Churnalism and the PR machine

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The topic of the release is not really important it concerned an MCG visit to spruik proposed new developments to the stadium but the situation throws up some interesting questions about the role played by public relations people.

As much as journalists hate cheap saints jerseys to admit it, public relations and its attendant press releases play an important role in their job. Most journalists view press releases with skepticism as they should. Their function is to sell a message or product, whether it comes from government, charities, multinational conglomerates or your local football team. It is the role of the journalist to take the press release, decide if there is a story in it (which might be very different to what the PR people want the story to be), and go from there.

Here an interesting take on the PR industry from Kate Evans of cartoonkate.

News outlets took pleasure in lampooning the Baillieu government over its gaff. Neil Mitchell gleefully broke the story on 3AW and it was quickly picked up by The Age and the Herald Sun. Mitchell said it was example of what Ted Baillieu said he wouldn do which is to con us, to spin. The Labor opposition were equally happy, with their scrutiny of government spokesman Martin Pakula saying it had a pretty bad week for the government. it was an embarrassing oversight by the Baillieu PR office. But is it also a case of, in glass houses While Mitchell found a legitimately good story in this case, sometimes journalists don go to as much effort. Many are as guilty of rehashing what is put in front of them as the Baillieu government. It called churnalism. Brian Montopoli of the Columbia Journalism Review has discussed churnalism, as have The Guardian.

Neil Mitchell and the Melbourne dailies were right to criticise the government on this. If they were lazy enough to rehash an old press release, what will they do when decisions arise which actually require effort? By the same token though, it might pay to remember the criticisms that are often levelled at them for their own laziness.

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