Having worked in both public relations and journalism, I find this piece by Paul Graham insightful. The PR industry “lurks like a huge, quiet submarine beneath the news,” working under the surface to project and protect the interests of the businesses they work for. Journalists actually depend a great deal on public relations firms.
“Of the stories you read in traditional media that aren’t about politics, crimes, or disasters, more than half probably come from PR firms,” he writes. PR firms invisibly guide and manipulate journalists — far more than journalists like to admit. Graham writes:
PR is not dishonest. Not quite. In fact, the reason the best PR firms are so effective is precisely that they aren’t dishonest. They give reporters genuinely valuable information. A good PR firm won’t bug reporters just because the client tells them to; they’ve worked hard to build their credibility with reporters, and they don’t want to destroy it by feeding them mere propaganda.
If anyone is dishonest, it’s the reporters. The main reason PR firms exist is that reporters are lazy. Or, to put it more nicely, overworked. Really they ought to be out there digging up stories for themselves. But it’s so tempting to sit in their offices and let PR firms bring the stories to them. After all, they know good PR firms won’t lie to them. A good flatterer doesn’t lie, but tells his victim selective truths (what a nice color your eyes are). Good PR firms use the same strategy: they give reporters stories that are true, but whose truth favors their clients.
I highly recommend this reflective piece. Click. (Reposted from my old blog, the Buie Knife.)