Blog 5: PR Spin – The Elephant in The Press Room

Public relations practitioners are often thought to be, or in some measure even required to be, spin doctors. This refers to someone who publicizes favourable interpretations of the words and actions of corporations and other public figures. The relationship between public relations and journalism is increasingly coming under scrutiny with the changing media scene.

As quoted by Nic Paton from the Guardian:

“Most journalists will have taken the PR shilling at some point in their career… Most of the time it is a straightforward love-hate relationship…To the journalist, the PR is a necessary evil. And the PR is willing to suffer all that talk about integrity and independence as long as it gets the client those valuable column inches.”

The common denominator of both professional lies in their function to manage information. The relationship of who wields more power can be likened to two kids playing on a see-saw. Depending on the types of news, ability of the information holder and seeker, and respective bosses’ deadlines, both parties inevitably need one another. The ratio of PR people to “pitchable” journalists, however, is now estimated at 4 to 1 (Forbes,  2013).

Thus we can see that the PR-journalism relationship is not permanently ironed out yet. In this mercilessly changing environment, these two trades will have to adapt accordingly and play frienemies.

 

References

Forbes (2013, March 14). The Journalist And The PR Pro: A Broken Marriage? – Forbes. Retrieved July 3, 2013, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterhimler/2013/03/14/the-journalist-the-pr-pro-a-broken-marriage

Paton, N. (2001, Oct 22). When is a story not a story? The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2001/oct/22/mondaymediasection5

Advertisements

Press Freedom and Individual Right to Privacy: Bloggers in Singapore

The debate putting freedom of the press against right to privacy is not a new one. Most previous discussion focus that any public figure has to recognize that with public status and recognition comes some costs to their personal privacy. This is especially so for celebrities, political figures and so on. However, with regard to what aspects of privacy can or cannot be invaded depends largely on many factors and their respective contexts.

This topic probably seems to have gained attention again since 2012 as the year has been considered as a year of scandals in Singapore.

Singapore’s press freedom has hit a record low this year, falling fourteen spots in the Freedom of the Press report by Freedom House to 153rd. The report classifies Singapore’s level of press freedom as “Not Free”. This puts us in the same light as countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Qatar, definitely countries that Singaporeans probably do not see themselves as sharing the same economic and social light.

This discussion is getting pretty old, playing the same tune and we all know that things will probably not change in the near future without something revolutionary to teach the pipers (the government and other forces of censorship and restriction) a new genre to play.

Something we do see in Singapore that may be interesting is the rise of bloggers their initiated voices, which usually involves volunteering information about their private lives. The followship and influence of such lifestyle bloggers can sometimes be underestimated. These new breed of celebrities in Singapore are usually lifestyle trend-setters or blogshop models that give advice ranging on anything from make-up, travel, food, exercise and even services to give a try.

Using exercise tips as an example, these bloggers are hardly professionals or trained to dispense information. However, as readers follow their lives and lifestyles, these bloggers gain “credibility” and “legitimacy” in that manner. Thus, mainstream media platforms such as The Straits Times now even utilize them as sources for stories, making them newsworthy. An example would be the hot bods article in The Straits Times just yesterday in The Sunday Times.

While this does not speak for the entire trend of media privacy, or in this case the lack thereof in Singapore, it does shed light on a demographic of people more than willing to share their secrets and lifestyles in order to gain attention and readership.

Ewan Mah aptly comments that “Up until a few years ago, you couldn’t really put photos of yourself up online to be judged/ogled at or judge/ogle at others when they do the same.” Now however, it seems weird to know somebody who doesn’t.

References

Tremeritus.com. n.d.. S’pore Hits Another Low in 2013 Freedom of the Press Ranking. [online] Available at: http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/05/12/spore-hits-another-low-in-2013-freedom-of-the-press-ranking/ [Accessed: 8 Jul 2013].

Yahoo Sports. 2013. Bodies of fitsporation: Singapore ‘fitspo’ bloggers spark fitness trend. [online] Available at: http://sg.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/fit-to-post-sports/bodies-inspiration-must-good-looks-150003997.html [Accessed: 8 Jul 2013].

Is 2012 a Worthy Watershed Year for News Media?

When a period or span of time is considered to be a watershed year, it dictates an important time or factor that serves as a dividing line between two issues/phenomenon/circumstance.

In 2012, there was a continued erosion of news reporting resources and platforms as they converged. This is especially so in western democracies such as the U.S and even in Singapore. The following reflects statistics in the U.S in 2012:

Image

These converging sources create more opportunities for those in politics, government agencies, and corporations alike to take their messages directly to their respective publics. Growing now is a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into stories of substance, and to question information that falls into its hands. In the same vein however, newsmakers and other actors with information seeking public eyes have become more adept to using digital technologies and social media to do so, resulting in a trend of individual empowerment rather than fighting for corporate support. The result is news that is not filtered by traditional media.

Whether or not this truly constitutes a ‘watershed year’ it subject to individual’s perspective. Given the rate of change in the news media industry today, change seems to be the only constant. It has even reached a point that change is to be expected, and we play catch up to the trends. Audiences now not only look for change, but substantial change. In a society of constant change, only the biggest and loudest wins our arbitrary attention and even more occasionally our response.

For your own reflection, the following are some of the many “big” movements in the new media scene in 2012:

  1. Justin Timberlake resurrected MySpace
  2. Bad Piggies overtook Angry Birds
  3. Google Chrome took overtook Internet Explorer
  4. Introduction of Netflix and Spotify
  5. Apple disappointed with its Apple Maps
  6. Facebook turned on Timeline
  7. Facebook bought Instagram
  8. Facebook reached 1 billion uses
  9. Facebook’s IPO made co-founder Dustin Moskovitz the world’s youngest billionaire
  10. Obama’s re-election help Twitter shatter records
  11. UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the Pope came into Twittersphere
  12. The Kony 2012 debate
  13. 2012 Olympic memes

References

Pew Research Center. 2012. State of the News Media 2012. [online] Available at: http://www.pewresearch.org/2012/03/19/state-of-the-news-media-2012/ [Accessed: 8 Jul 2013].

Silicon Republic. 2012. The year in new media. [online] Available at: http://www.siliconrepublic.com/new-media/item/30717-the-year-in-new-media-from [Accessed: 8 Jul 2013].

Stateofthemedia.org. 2012. The State of the News Media 2013. [online] Available at: http://stateofthemedia.org/ [Accessed: 8 Jul 2013].

Blog 2: Are Social Media and Journalism Strange Bedfellows or Made for Each Other?

Image

Having scratched the surface of citizen journalism and its place in the media today, we now seek to do the same of social media and its relationship to journalism. Hermida (2010), introduces that this emerging platform is “a new media technology that enables and extends our ability to communicate, sharing some similarities with broadcast. It allows ‘users to share brief blasts of information to friends and followers from various sources.’” Twitter is definitely something that comes to mind when I consider Hermida’s concept. Social media has now become an integral part of our everyday interactions, as well as a major foothold in successful marketing and communication campaigns.

This week’s presentation group highlighted an interesting table categorizing the supposed “positions” of the various social media platforms that can be seen below:

Image

Whether or not journalism and social media are made for one another to me is a secondary question. This blog comes from the standpoint that these, or rather most separate entities that overlap inevitably have a relationship with one another. However, posing the question of whether they were destined to be together implies a belief in soul mates and other such deterministic ideas. It also seems to imply that journalism was made with social media in mind, and that its function was to perfectly complement this platform that would be invented in the future, and vice versa. That thinking would be too contrived. What seems to be a better way to approach this relationship would be to see how they accentuate the good and further stretch the flaws in one another.

As we entertain the couple metaphors here, the relationship dynamics between journalism and social media is like two parties who have accepted that they are to co-inhabit. They thus have to then tweak certain traits of themselves in order to accommodate and function in the other’s ‘comfort zone’. Sound familiar? For example, in order for journalism to thrive in Twitter, headlines cannot exceed 140 characters. Similarly, in order for social media to be taken seriously, they have to be reasonably credible and coherent. This is but a brief tip of the iceberg. This week’s presentation elaborates further on the various aspects where journalism and social media are compatible, or not.

Image

I really like the depth of how Stahl (2013) puts it:

“If, as a wise journalist once said, journalism is the first rough draft of history, then Twitter is the first rough draft of journalism.”

References

Hermida, A. (2010). Twittering the News. Journalism Practice , 4 (3), 297-308.

Stahl, J. (2013). Thou Shalt Not Stoop to Political Point-Scoring. Slate [online]. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/04/boston_marathon_bombing_all_the_mistakes_journalists_make_during_a_crisis.html

Blog One: The Citizen and The Journalist

Image

Our fellow classmates put up an extremely comprehensive presentation regarding the negotiable role of the citizen journalist media today. They particularly covered many instances of citizen journalism triumphs and strengths by shedding light on protests and atrocities in the Middle East.

Citizen journalists, according to Berkowitz (1987), are individuals commenting in their individual capacity. These are people who bear no association nor representation with any governmental entities, professional corporations, or media organizations. In essence, they serve as an individual and independent voice, or rather the popular “voice of the masses” stance. Citizen journalism covers content ranging from user-submitted reviews for things like movies, to wiki-based news.

“When the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tolls they have in their possession to inform one another, thats citizen journalism” (Rosen, 2008).

It seems that the existence of the citizen journalist is no longer a novelty concept. They have now grown to become a prime news source. Sambrook (2005) and Bruns (2008) also comment that such a trend now challenges the ways in which journalists and citizens (the audience) produce and consume news. We do see mainstream publications making use of the content provided and produced by citizen journalists. Given factors such as the advancement of technologies and the stigma or propagated mainstream media publications, consumers may even turn to citizen journalists over their mainstream sources.

In order to remain relevant, mainstream media has sought to collaborate with citizen journalists, as well as take to online platforms to further reach into consumers’ good books and pockets. However, the mainstream media also has to seek to break stigmas such as its propaganda and agenda-filled reputation in order to remain relevant and appealing as a news source. This is amongst other factors that is shrinking the market for traditional media in favor of citizen journalism.