A few days ago I read a thought provoking piece from Will Sturgeon on the value of PR and how it’s evolved over the past decade or so, the most interesting bit though as his assertion that “Bad PR is purely a product of bad journalism”. This is based on a number of factors but basically can be summed up as there are now far more outlets for content and far fewer journalists than ever before, thus making it far easier for soft news stories to be sold in and picked up.
I think that Sturgeon is being rather kind and that while bad PR may thrive because of bad journalism that doesn’t excuse many of the sloppy practices that seem to have become the norm in some corners of the industry.
Of course the hope is that social media will be better for PR. Free of the time constraints, editorial demands and a code of ethics, bloggers have no compunction in calling shenanigans on dodgy survey based stories or naming and shaming ill-constructed or poorly put together pitches. All of which should hopefully make PR practitioners up their game a bit.
Then, via Tom Murphy, I picked up on Andrew Sullivan’s piece in the Times on the future of print and the role of blogging. Sullivan believes that print is a dead medium (shocker) but that blogging is not a viable replacement as its just not scaleable.
The terrifying problem is that a one-man blog cannot begin to do the necessary labour-intensive, skilled reporting that a good newspaper sponsors and pioneers.
The problem is though that very few papers still devote much resource to detailed investigation, instead churning what is fed to them by various sources, whereas the one man blogger can devote as much time as he wants, he/she is just not able to cover a broad spectrum of topics in depth, as a paper should be able to. One would hope that the challenge from such dedicated bloggers would increase the competition for journalists and that perhaps good blogging will lead to good journalism. Sullivan suggests a slightly utopian future, where:
Perhaps private philanthropists will step in and finance not-for-profit journalistic centres, where investigative and foreign reporting can be invested in and disseminated by blogs and online sites. Maybe reporter-bloggers will start rivalling opinion-mongers such as me and give the whole enterprise some substance. Maybe papers can slim down sufficiently to produce a luxury print issue and a viable online product.
However I can’t help but feel that the current obsession for providing news quickly if inaccurately will continue, that true investigative journalism will become even more of a rarity and we’re generally ending up with the media that we deserve.