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Journalists And Public Relations Practitioners Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 1995 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Since studying and undertaking work experience in the field of public relations I have realised the need for a good relationship between journalists and PR practitioners if both professions want to achieve their goals and do their job to the highest standard.

Writing press releases and then sending them to journalists is an important aspect of a PR practitioner’s job, so a good relationship between the two is important. Both professions rely on each other; journalists need PR practitioners to provide them with newsworthy stories about their clients or organisation they are working for and PR practitioners need journalists to publish the press releases that they send to them on behalf of their clients or organisation.

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After writing some press releases and sending them to journalists while undertaking work experience at The Phoenix Partners I found that three of the four press releases which I had written were published by at least one of the journalists which I had sent them to. I also found after analysing press cuttings that many of the press releases written by my colleagues were also often used by journalists.

After speaking to two PR practitioners who previously worked as journalists, I was told that PR practitioners are having a big influence in the setting of the news agenda as many of their news stories are being used by the relevant media. What I have learnt while studying PR confirms that what I have seen first hand from my work experience and what I have been told by ex journalists is correct and I have decided to research this topic further to gain a more in-depth knowledge of it.

Research Questions

In order to come to a conclusion to see whether the influence of the news agenda is being transferred from journalists towards PR practitioners, I have formulated the following research questions:

How common is it for news in media outlets to be as a result of PR activity?

Do PR practitioners generally have a good relationship with journalists?

Has there been a shift in employment in PR and journalism?


To answer the question and to see whether the influence of the news agenda is being transferred from journalists towards public relations practitioners, I will be using a combination of primary and secondary research methods.

There has already been a lot of secondary research conducted on this area of PR and journalism and this research will help me to answer all of my research questions. This secondary research includes research already conducted by national organisations and academic teams.

I will also be using academic and professional sources in researching the topic. This includes the use of academic textbooks, websites, magazines, newspapers and media reports, allowing me to use a mixture of factual data as well as the thoughts and opinions of researchers, academics and practitioners in the field of PR and journalism.

My study will also make use of primary research methods in answering two of my research questions; how common is it for news in media outlets to be as a result of PR activity and do PR practitioners generally have a good relationship with journalists? The primary research will consist of conducting questionnaires, one sent to PR practitioners and one sent to journalists within the West Midlands, England. The questionnaires will ask both open-ended and closed-ended questions which will provide me with enough information to analyse my findings and answer my research questions.

I have chosen to use the West Midlands for my investigation as I already have lots of contacts who are PR practitioners within this area and therefore I will benefit from a higher response rate than if I were to send the questionnaire to people who I don’t know from other areas. I will use my PR contacts to help me find journalists to respond to the questionnaire, as well as using Mediadisk to find journalists within the West Midlands and contact them directly.

The sampling methods I am using are a combination of convenience sampling and snowball sampling. Forzano and Gravetta (2008) state that convenience sampling is where researchers use participants who are easy to get based on their availability and willingness to respond. Babbie (2009) feels that snowball sampling works well when a population is difficult to locate. This is because the researcher collects data from the members of the target population that they can locate and then asks them to help locate other members of the target population that they may know.

Ethical Issues

When conducting primary and secondary research for my study I need to consider any ethical implications of my research methods. As I will be using secondary data already conducted by national organisations and academic teams, I will ensure that I don’t pass any of the research off as my own and I will cite what source I have got the research from.

While I analyse my findings from the questionnaires sent to PR practitioners and journalists I will make sure that I don’t fabricate, falsify or misinterpret research data. This will ensure that my research is honest and truthful, this is important in order to make my study represent a true reflection of my findings.

One of the main factors which discourage participants in taking part in a questionnaire is that they want their answers to remain confidential and anonymous, even to the researcher. To ensure respondents’ answers to the questionnaire will be kept anonymous, I will be setting up the questionnaire online and won’t be asking respondents to fill out their name. This will ensure that any participants who fear for their anonymity can be sure that this ethical issue will not pose them a problem.

Literature Review

The relationship between journalists and PR practitioners, which has typically been characterised as essentially in conflict, has recently been recast as a “trading” or “exchange” relationship in which under-resourced journalists, working in under-staffed newsrooms, increasingly rely on PR sources for editorial copy while offering access to editorial columns for PR messages in return (Gans 1978, Jones 2006).

However, Tench and Yeomans (2006) state journalists feel that PR practitioners are incapable of manipulating them and that they are an annoying distraction to them when they’re setting out to do their jobs. While PR practitioners argue that media relations works best if its aim is to provide a service to the media, instead of acting mostly as a promotional channel for their clients or organisation.

A long standing stream of PR research has looked at the influence of the news agenda. There is more than 80 years of research on this topic in the USA, Australia and UK. Macnamara (2009) states that USA studies go back as far as 1926 when Silas Bent studied the New York Times and found that out of the 256 stories in the newspaper, 147 of them came from PR sources.

In 1963 when a series of studies of the news media was conducted in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it found that 45% of the stories in newspapers and 15% of news aired on radio and television were in some way sourced from PR activity. (Grunig and Hunt, 1984)

The New York Times was again looked at along with the Washington Post when Leon Sigal found that around two-thirds of articles originated from press releases and other PR sources. Only 26% of news resulted from reporting, interviews or the journalists’ own analysis. (Macnamara, 2009)

Studies on this subject in Australia date back to more recent times. Macnamara (1993) conducted a study to examine the relationship between PR practitioners and journalists; it also looked at the conflicting claims over the role of and impact of PR in shaping the news agenda. He undertook research for his Masters of Arts by conducting a survey of 417 journalists and editors in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. He found that 86% claimed to have ‘very frequent’ contact from PR practitioners and 74% said that they received over 20 press releases or other PR communications per week.

At the same time 150 press releases were gathered from 27 different companies and a national press clipping service provided 2,500 articles on the topics of the press releases. The study found that 31% of stories were based on the press releases, only nine press releases out of 150 tracked (1.2%) were not used by the media and the average usage rate for the press releases was seven times.

A more recent analysis of media content in Australia by Zawawi (2001) conducted an examination of 1,163 articles published by three leading newspapers to identify the origin of news stories. The research confirmed the origin of 683 articles, of which 251 (37%) were sourced from PR activity. The analysis found that surveys, papers and submissions sent to journalists with the aim of attaining media coverage could also be considered as PR activity and these accounted for a further 88 news stories. Taking this into consideration it was concluded that 47% of news items were resulted from PR activity.

Davies (2008) commissioned expert researchers from the journalism department of Cardiff University to study a sample of the news running through the British media in 2008. It focused on five daily newspapers; The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. They chose two random weeks and examined each domestic news item put out by these newspapers, a total of 2,207 pieces. The study found that 54% of news items showed signs of being sourced from PR activity. It also found that only 12% of news stories in newspapers were independently sourced.


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Reading literature




Note taking




Designing Questionnaire


Data Collection

Distribution of Questionnaire


Collection of Questionnaire



Data Analysis

Analysis of Questionnaire Results


Evaluation of Questionnaire Results









Literature Review







Study Limitations






Proof Reading


Chapter Plan




3.1 Research Design

Literature Review

The Influence of the News Agenda in Australia

The Influence of the News Agenda in USA

The Influence of the News Agenda in Britain

The Relationship Between PR Practitioners and Journalists

Changes in Employment in Journalism

Changes in Employment in PR

Reasons for the Change in Influence of the News Agenda

Primary Research

Findings of Questionnaire Sent to Journalists

Findings of Questionnaire Sent to PR Practitioners


How common is it for news in media outlets to be as a result of PR activity?

Do PR practitioners generally have a good relationship with journalists?

Has there been a shift in employment in PR and journalism?

Is the influence of the news agenda being transferred from journalists towards PR practitioners?

Study Limitations







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