The Public Relations Practitioner's View of the Journalist

From the public relations practitioner's perspective, the journalist is at once an audience, a medium through which to reach the larger public, and a gatekeeper and responding to the publics need to know. Some go so far as to say that the practitioner's livelihood depends on reporters' or editors' decisions to use his material. Because of this dependency, practitioners' selection and presentation of information often conforms more to journalistic standards than to the desires of their superiors in their own organizations. In a sense, both the journalist and the practitioner, in dealing with each other, are caught between the demands of the organizations they represent and thee demands of the opposite party. Public relations practitioners, as boundary spanners, are often caught in the middle between journalistic and other institutions, trying to explain each to the other.

Mutual Dependence

The relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists is one of mutual dependency. Although journalists like to picture themselves as reluctant to utilize public relations (information, economic considerations force them to do otherwise. A news staff capable of ferreting information from every significant organization in a city without the assistance of representatives for those organizations would be prohibitively expensive. Indeed, numerous studies have placed public relations' contribution to total news coverage in excess of 50 percent. Moreover, the public relations practitioner makes the journalist's job much easier, saving time and effort and providing information that might otherwise be unavailable. To a considerable extent, the purposes of the news outlet and the public relations practitioner overlap. Both wish to inform the public of things that affect them. This provides the basis of a cooperative system for disseminating information. In this sense, public relations practitioners function as extensions of the news staff They play a specific, functional, cooperative role in society's information-gathering network, even though they owe no loyalty to specific news outlets, are not paid by them, and may never set foot in the building in which the news is produced. Communication between certain public relations practitioners and journalists is massive, Some public relations offices send out news releases daily. Additionally, personal contact and communication may be initiated by either party. The amount, of communication, between journalists and public relations practitioners is a measure of their dependency on one another. In some instances, public relations practitioners provide more useful information to specific media than do the journalists Those media employ. Through the efforts of public relations practitioners, the media receive a constant flow of free information. Facts that journalists might not have acquired otherwise become available in packaged form. The reporter or editor, as we noted above, can then decide what is newsworthy. As the editor of an Ohio daily, newspaper remarked with relish, "I'm the guy who says 'yes' or 'no', the public relations man has to say please. " That editor's assessment of journalists' power is strictly accurate only when public relations practitioners and journalists share no dependency. When interdependency exists, journalists retain nominal veto power over incoming information, but they abdicate much of their decision-making responsibility to public relations practitioners who select and control material given out: While journalists may reject one or another news release, they depend on the constant flow of information from representatives of important institutions. To a large extent, journalists are processors of information passed on by public relations practitioners who do the primary gathering. Under these circumstances, journalists' main means of control becomes their ability to refuse to deal with public relations practitioners who fail to meet subjective standards. Even such rejection is impossible, though, when the public relations practitioner is firmly entrenched in the institution.

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