Journalism, public relations, and spin

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Handbook of Journalism Studies, 2019, 2nd, pp. 341 - 355
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The efficacy of journalism in performing its role in society, particularly the important role of independent journalism in a democracy discussed in Chapter 20, is impacted by a number of social interactions that influence what can be called the ‘social construction of journalism’. Beyond internal values, rituals, routines, and practices and beyond the economic, political, and technological contexts of journalism, which are all important as shown in this handbook, journalism is fundamentally shaped and influenced by who journalists talk to – their sources of information and influence (Manning, 2001; Sigal, 1986), as discussed in Chapter 11. In addition to primary sources, an increasing collective source of information and influence is the growing field of public relations and its related and largely synonymous practices. Here the term public relations, and PR for short, are used to include practices referred to as corporate communication, communication management, public affairs, and government and political communication. All of these organizational functions fit the parsimonious definition of PR as “the management of communication between an organization and its publics” (Grunig & Hunt, 1984, p. 6). Journalism and PR have long co-existed and undergone what Schönhagen and Meißner (2016) call “co-evolution”. As identified by Dinan and Miller (2009) in the first edition of this handbook, there have been a number of studies of this inter-relationship over the past 100 years. However, major economic and technological changes in the mediascape over the past decade and continuing tensions and even controversy because of association of PR with ‘spin’ warrant ongoing critical examination of this triumvirate.
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