Maybe I’m romancing it because I’ve never been formally trained, or glimpsed behind the curtain of the modern newsroom. But I carry the naive notion that a journalist should be a Jedi wielding TRUTH like the Force and ramming the lightsaber of FACTS up the arse of all that is corrupt. I know it can’t be easy, not only do you have to meet deadlines, smoke fifteen packets of cigarettes a day, and wear a hat with a small ticket that says ‘PRESS’ on it but you also have find interesting things to write about every, single, day. So its not surprising that many journalists fall for the Dark Side of PR.
Like this story here http://tinyurl.com/ykn7639. The story is about a squirrel that has been banned from a popular Midlands theme park. Now this theme park is only mentioned twice, but once is in the headline and the entire story is about a new ride — that, apparently defying all common sense, is so good even the fucking squirrel enjoys it. They even named the squirrel after the ride making sure the journo HAS to mention it at least once. Interestingly, the technique they are using to this thrill-seeking rodent is the same one that some supermarkets were purportedly using to keep teenagers away from thrilling Car Parks a few years ago. The one which the manufacturer says has no effects on dogs.
PR stands for Public Relations and it used to be the PR person’s job to be the public face of the company. That can helpful and, dare I say it, good. They can act like the conscious of a large corporation, the little Jiminy Cricket pushing the people they represent to give to charities, start recycling initiatives, or even encouraging discussion and dialogue between companies and their critics. Unfortunately on the flip side it is far less effort to seed newsrooms with press releases with just enough quirky news worthiness so on a slow news day can be picked up and actually printed as facts.
Now I’m not saying I know for definite that the journalist wasn’t down at the theme park listening in on park wardens’ conversations and shouting ‘What a scoop!’* when this particular gem was mentioned. Just that I find it far more likely to be the centre of a Venn diagram. Sitting where the circles of slow news day, lazy journalism, and the social disease rash of PR overlap.
*yes, my experience of journalism is purely from black and white American films, what of it?
The opinions of Danny Smith do not necessarily reflect the views of the publishers of this blog, its affiliates, or any sane adult human beings. He currently lives in your cupboard, watching, always watching.