Posted by: lmbshepard | October 23, 2011

What’s the harm?

McChesney doesn’t hold back his contempt for public relations practitioners in The Political Economy of Media. He uses a broad brush to paint a picture of those of us that make our living “by providing slick press releases, paid for “experts”, ostensibly neutral sounding but bogus citizens groups, and canned news events…”  While I do agree with him that our industry does have some pretty slick operators I don’t think his characterization fairly represents the majority of the industry.  He goes on to lament how “media owners welcome PR” and how our messages provides “filler”  at no cost and how our messages are making it into the news hole “word for word.”  The word “churnalism” has been coined to describe this practice. The part of me that believes in investigative and watch-dog journalism wants to vomit from it. On the other hand, it is advantageous to have my releases and messages published word for word across multiple media platforms.  What is worse? To have minimal local government coverage that leans heavily toward crime stories (or alligators) or to have local coverage on important issues because I have written a release knowing full well there is a high probability  it will be published word for word?  I know the editors are taking advantage of my free content and I am taking advantage of the opportunity for publication.  So I ask with my tongue firmly in my cheek “what’s the harm?”


  1. The harm is that PR exists to create positive coverage for the client. It’s not objective. It’s not news. The PR person is not going to provide opposing opinions or products in their pitch. PR people can offer good story ideas, as in new medical breakthroughs. It just should not replace enterprising reporting.

    A lot of PR pitches are simply an effort to get free advertising when new products or services are launched. Apple is the king of getting free advertising for every new launch.

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