Public relations and journalism: truth, trust, transparency and integrity

Davies, Frank (2008) Public relations and journalism: truth, trust, transparency and integrity. Occasional Working Paper Series, 1 (1). ISSN 1758-1818

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Abstract

Truth, trust, integrity and reputation are key concepts for understanding the relationship between journalists and public relations practitioners. This the paper: first, considers the current debate on the inter-relationship between journalism and public relations; second distinguishes varieties of public relations and journalism; third, analyses the Editorial Intelligence controversy; fourth, deconstructs aspects of "truth" and "trust" in the context of that debate; fifth, considers why the virtue of individuals is vitally important for both public relations and journalism.

Public Relations & Journalism: stereotypes and identity crisis

In terms of public perception of both professions perhaps stereotypes of the practitioner as fundamentally dishonest are widespread. However, those stereotypes of journalism and public relations conflate the variety of activities that come under the headings "journalism" and "public relations".

Public relations and journalism: "hard" versus "soft"

"Soft public relations" is characterised by a concern with providing publicity for a client. By delivering a good story the public relations practitioner offers the journalist a means of satisfying users of his medium. "Soft" journalism is concerned with entertainment and truth is irrelevant, it is essentially concerned with comics for adults.

"Hard" public relations and journalism are difficult to characterise simply but are characterised by a concern for truth and trust in relation to the integrity and reputation of the individual practitioner;

Public Relations and journalism: long spoon or spooning?

Although a distinction between "entertainment" ("Soft" public relations and journalism) and "what matters" ("hard" public relations and journalism) is not regarded as a significant distinction by all commentators it provide a locus for deconstructing the role of truth, trust and integrity in journalism and public relations

An important source of "soft" journalism stories is "soft" public relations. The fact is that Editorial intelligence primarily suited "soft" public relations practitioners and journalists.

Public relations and journalism: "truth" & "trust"

In the case of both public relations and journalism the related notions of trust and truth are central to their professional activities. Transparency, truth, trust and public interest are dimensions of the relationship between public relations and journalism.

A hard and soft truth distinction is not exhaustive and an important other category is artistic or emotional truth.

Audiences do not always understand what genre they are witnessing so consequently do not automatically know how to interpret what they see and hear.

Public Relations and Journalism: virtuous expediency

On the basis of an individual transparently identifiable communicator's track record audiences should decide whether or not to trust that journalists or public relations practitioner. Consequently, there is a need for publics and audiences to be informed so that they are able to make valid judgements about communicators and what they say.

Regarding the relationship between public relations and journalism, at the "hard" end, both journalist and public relations practitioner are dealing with matters of public interest and need to cooperate but at arm's length.

Conclusion

"Truth" and "trust" are both important in the practice of journalism and public relations. It is vital, therefore, that both "hard" journalists and public relations practitioners act with professional integrity. Transparency of the communicator's identity is crucial. Power needs to rest with a citizen public exercising the right to give or withhold belief in the communicator and in determining his or her reputation for veracity and also to exercise real power as consumers and voters.

Keywords:Truth, Trust, Public Relations, Journalism, Ethics
Subjects:X Education > X342 Academic studies in Higher Education
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Education
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ID Code:16177
Deposited On:04 Dec 2014 10:59

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