LEADER: PR is not to blame for 'churnalism'

This was the week that 'churnalism' entered the lexicon. A brash, oxymoronic creation from journalist Nick Davies, who argues many of his colleagues have become puppets for an ever more voracious PR industry.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

It is impossible to ignore the irony that Davies has used all the means of modern PR to raise awareness of his book Flat Earth News, which is published this week.

 It was a classic 'Sunday for Monday' story, planned to appear in Media Guardian (in his own newspaper) and landing him a nice slot on the agenda-setting Today programme.

His snappy term 'churnalists', backed up by that hoary old PR technique, the 'study from Cardiff University', ensured he grabbed the news agenda.

The other media titles took the lead and (hey look!) we have become part of the process as well.

This is not to say Davies is a hypocrite. He is a respected journalist and, like most good PR-driven stories, his argument touches a raw nerve.

What is more galling is the way some commentators have focused his criticism of lacklustre journalism on an overly powerful, even 'manipulative' PR industry.

PR is surely a natural extension of a mature pluralist democracy where various voices compete to win a battle of ideas among fiercely competitive media.

Indeed, one of the reasons that the UK PR industry thrives is that we have such influential and manifold media outlets. But the fact that these outlets are, as Davies rightly points out, under-investing in thorough journalism is bad news all round.

PR only works when it is a credible marketing medium. So if trust in journalism decreases, its own efficacy declines accordingly.

As a hack and a firm believer in the role of the fourth estate, this writer has much sympathy with Davies.

But, critically, the solution lies with the media owners themselves, who must re-invest in strong journalism.



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