19 September 2014

Of journalism, PR and technical journalism and PR

The FT's weekend supplement for 19-21 September features an article entitled The invasion of corporate news by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson. The kicker* (one sentence; no full stop) reads:
The lines between journalism and PR are rapidly becoming blurred as business interests bypass traditional media to get their message across
The trend described may not yet be directly relevant to technical journalism (and the translation thereof), but it may be quite soon. The following quotes are particularly relevant (my bold):
Social media and digital publishing tools are allowing this strain of corporate news to reach vast audiences, with profound implications for the way businesses communicate with the public and for the media outlets they are learning to sidestep.
...
PRs are spinners of favourable stories, glossers-over of unfavourable facts and gatekeepers standing between us and the people we want to get to.
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But as journalists bemoan such PR obstacles, they rarely admit an important fact: the PRs are winning.
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As journalism schools pump out new generations of would-be Woodwards and Bernsteins, many of those not finding newsroom jobs have turned instead to the business of how to present the news in the most flattering light. They have been joined by laid-off reporters, editors, producers and presenters, with the skills to tell the stories brands want to be told about themselves.
...
Their efforts seem to be working. Cardiff University researchers estimated in 2006 that 41 per cent of UK press articles were driven by PR, a phenomenon known as “churnalism”. But PRs are now playing the news industry at its own game. They are discovering how to work around journalists, getting their own slickly produced stories, videos and graphics straight to their target audiences – often with the help of the very news organisations they are subverting.
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... with the traditional press release came an “asset pack” that Microsoft PRs shot out to century-old newsrooms and influential one-man blogs alike.
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It was a masterclass in PR spoonfeeding and news organisations simply had to drag and drop.
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The FT was among those that embedded one of Microsoft’s videos in its reporting that week (noting that it had been produced by the company), linked to and analysed Nadella’s blog and used the company-issued photographs.
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Sir Richard Branson ... Virgin’s one-man brand has more than 1.5m Facebook likes, 4.4m Twitter followers ... “Now we’ve got a way of reaching people who read what we say and we don’t have to rely on the Daily Mail,” he observes.
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CEOs are finding that their unfiltered social media content is often picked up by the traditional media it has circumvented, PR Week’s Barrett notes.
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Marketers talk about “paid media” (advertising they have to buy), “earned media” (from press coverage to word-of-mouth buzz) and a growing category called “owned media” (their websites, blogs and social media feeds).
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This digital spin on traditional advertorials has been dubbed “one of the great euphemisms of our time” ...
Some publishers have gone further, enthusiastically lending their editorial expertise to help brands improve their content.
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For PR Week’s Barrett, this point is at the heart of the debate over whether “brand journalism” counts as journalism.
* As regular readers will be aware, I often quote from the FT, one of my main sources of non-technical news. On 15 Setpember the paper ran a piece entitled New Look for Financial Times newspaper. It was only today however that I noticed that the 'kickers' (what the French call the chapĂ´) no longer, as a rule, end with a full stop (US: period). I wonder why?

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