PR vs journalists debate concludes: we’re on the same side
A debate on journalists and PRs convinced the audience at last night’s Public Relations Institute of Australia discussion that the two professions are indeed two sides of the same coin.
When the question was put to the vote, the proposition was easily carried – although not before some strong hyperbole from both sides.
For: Marie Najjar of Public City kicked off the debate, telling the room: “At the end of the day, regardless of whether you are PR practitioner or journalist, you both need to understand what makes news and understand the audience.”
Against: But Lukas Picton of PR firm Text 100 argued: “The truth is that PR and journalism is not and never will be two sides of the same coin. The objective of PR is to manipulate the public and the objective of journalism is to overcome that manipulation. It should be renamed PM – Public Manipulation.”
For: Sophia Russell, a writer for B&T magazine, disagreed, saying: “The PR people I’ve spoken to don’t look clever enough to do that.”
She added: “We’re both story tellers; we practice the same craft. Some of us have even done the same degrees. We’re all in business. I know as journalists, we talk about a higher purpose. But that higher purpose is Rupert Murdoch. It’s all about generating talkability.”
Against: Clint Drieberg of 2UE said that journalists were governed by the Press Council, while radio has its own code of conduct. He told the PRs: “You have nothing like that – you are not a real profession. It’s not a real job. You guys are not even willing to be watched over or regulated.”
For: Journalist Simon Sharwood argued: “At the core of PR is honesty – truth well told, as one of the ad agencies says. Journalists collect the information and synthesise it into a new product.”
Against: PR Pru Quinlan, boss of Einsteinz Communications, told the journalists: ‘We take tiny slivers and manipulate them, and you buy them. We like a good story, but PM is a novel. PR is but a brief fairytale.”
The verdict was decided by the loudest applause, which, in a room mainly containing PRs, easily went to the team arguing that both are indeed two sides of the same coin.
Afterwards, several of the speakers rushed to assure Mumbrella that the arguments they had advanced were not their own views.
Update: The same issues appear to rise all over the world. The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi explored it yesterday, with Tala Al Rahami complaining:
“There is a misconception that our job is to publish their press releases as “news”, and at a time that is convenient for their clients.”