When a Free Press Is No Longer Free

Says it all.

When pondering the question – what is wrong with our media? We often talk about media ownership, or dying platforms like newspapers. Perhaps it is the egos of journalists or mainstream media being out of touch.

Sure they are all big problems we face, but recently I faced one of our biggest problems the beast we call PR.

Spin is huge and is one of the key reasons why audiences don’t believe what they read, see or hear. It seems every story that is covered in mainstream (and some alternative) media has come from a press release or publicist phone call.

Now if you look through my own back catalogue you will see I too have written stories that came from this source. Sometimes I think it is ok. PR done well gives a heads up on a story we may not have heard about. Personally my favourites come from NGO’s sharing their good work or people in our community who deserve special mention.

A good publicist or PR manager can create access, assist with interviews and supply great photographs.

But once they have done that, it is time to cut ties. After the interview and in the throws of storytelling a journalist needs to step away and give the story a critical eye. Seek balance and clarify the facts. That’s our job.

Then when the publicist calls and asks to see the story before going out the answer is an emphatic – NO.

If we don’t do that we lose our integrity, and frankly, self respect.

Personally I think it is an abuse of journalism when PR agencies ask this. They don’t respect what our role is and are pushing the favour too far. Remember we are doing them a favour.

I believe they are abusing our right as a free press. And when they go to our editor that’s censorship. Sadly that’s all I can say about that.

So sure, take what we say with a pinch of salt but remember the bullshit doesn’t start with us.

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