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Public Relations and Journalism  

Merryn Sherwood, Timothy Marjoribanks, and Matthew Nicholson

The relationship between journalism and public relations in the 21st century has been mostly marked by tension, at least publicly. Many journalists’ accounts of public relations portray it as “the dark side” and characterize public relations practitioners as purveyors of “spin.” However, extensive research examining the input of public relations practitioners into the news has found that the products of their work—such as media releases or media conferences—are crucial in facilitating the news cycle. As one of the classic studies of news production identified, “News is, after all, not what journalists think, but what their sources say.” Decades of research have established that news sources are often likely to be public relations practitioners, with anywhere between 40% and 75% of news originating from public relations practitioners or the products of their work. Public relations is, therefore, critical to the work of journalism; however, journalists often deny this as part of publicly upholding the standards of their profession and building and maintaining boundaries of control over their work. However, the symbiotic relationship that formed the basis of news production in the 20th century is being upended in the 21st century as organizations become their own media producers. This means the lines continue to blur between journalism and public relations, both for individuals working across once clear occupational and professional boundary lines and for organizations adopting the functions of both.

Article

News Sources and Journalist–Source Interaction  

Caroline Fisher

The relationship between journalists and their sources is central to journalism practice. It is a relationship based on a power struggle over the presentation of information to the public. The nature of that relationship continues to change in response to cultural, social, political, and technological circumstances. Historically, the relationship between journalists and sources has been predominantly characterized as interdependent, oscillating between cooperation and conflict over the control of information. However, the arrival of digital publishing platforms and growing use of artificial intelligence and automation in journalism have significantly disrupted this mutually dependent exchange. It has blurred the boundaries between the two roles by complicating the concept of “source” and “journalist” and released sources from their traditional reliance on journalists to disseminate their messages to citizens. Using digital platforms, sources have the option to bypass the traditional media and communicate directly with the public if it meets their strategic communication goals. Depending on whether the source is trying to reach a specific audience via social media or a wider audience via mass media, they can “opt-in” or “opt-out” of a traditional journalist–source relationship. The shift in power between reporters and sources poses a challenge to the authority and control of journalists who have lost their stranglehold over the means of publication. This change points to issues of accountability and scrutiny and raises questions about the ongoing relevance of journalism’s “fourth estate” role in democracy.

Article

Political Parallelism  

Afonso de Albuquerque

Political parallelism refers to a pattern or relationship where the structure of the political parties is somewhat reflected by the media organizations. A concept introduced by Seymour-Ure and Blumler and Gurevitch in the 1970s, political parallelism became widespread after Hallin and Mancini made it one of the four basic analytical categories of their masterpiece Comparing Media Systems, three decades later. Since then, political parallelism has been often taken as a category with a potentially universal applicability. There are some reasons for cautiousness in this respect, however, as the premise that the political parties are the core organizers of the dynamics of politics makes sense in circumstances existing in Western Europe, especially from the 1950s until very recently, but not at every moment or even everywhere. Otherwise, it is possible to think about political parallelism as one specific pattern of media/politics relations among several others either already existing or possible. The fact that this model in particular receives so much attention does not result necessarily from its intrinsic value, but it may be related to asymmetries existing in the international landscape of the academic research in journalism and political communication, which privileges Western-based standpoints over others. Arguably, taking political parallelism from a broader outlook, considering both Western and non-Western views may provide a richer perspective about it.