In summary, the key points that I have learned from this week’s reading are that public relations is presently considered to be one of the most significant influences on journalism and that there are guidelines which enable public relations practitioners to decide whether or not a story is worthy of publication. According to a study referenced by Johnston and Zawawi (2004), out of 2500 news articles, over 30 percent were the consequence of media releases. Though I can hardly say I am shocked, this figure is nevertheless astounding and equally disturbing. Over 30 percent of “news” stories that had been disseminated to the masses were not the reporting of current events with substance but rather puff pieces created by organizations.
I am of the school of thought that the propagators of news stories should strive to report from an unbiased perspective and more importantly report upon events that are truly significant to the general public. Although Johnston and Zawawi (2004) insist that guidelines are available to public relations practitioners which can aid them in deciding whether or not a story is worthy of publication, terms such as the potential impact, prominence and human interest are quite vague and can be manipulated to serve the agenda of an organization.
The media release concerning plastic surgery that was handed out in tutorial is a prime example of such a practice. Because the media release advocates plastic surgery as rectification for flaws that cause great insecurity for many people, this could be argued by the authors as possessing an aspect of human interest. However, in reality they are merely trying to sell a service. What I find more disturbing than the public relations practitioners passing off puff pieces as new is the negligence exhibited by journalists who are supposed to be the gatekeepers of information and yet allow garbage to be disseminated to the public in order to sell papers.
My learning builds upon previous learning about public relations in that I had not known how greatly public relations influences the field of journalism. This is not to say that prior to this reading I took all news at face value and trusted all journalists. However, I feel that 30 percent is very high figure and I am disheartened that journalism, a field that is supposed to be an advocate for the public has increasingly succumb to the lure of the almighty dollar and placed bringing the truth onto the backburner.