The world of public relations and media is typically cynical with professionals of these sectors taking everything with a pinch of salt. Any incident, which seems out of line, is usually ignored and in some cases admired with the knowledge that someone somewhere has pulled the right strings.
However, the recent news on ‘Rambo Act’ of Mr. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, led to a debate within public relations professionals and journalists on online forums and e-mail groups.
The publication which carried the news came out with conflicting reports within its group’s newspapers on the source of news and whether an international public affairs firm was involved in spreading this news. A group of senior PR professionals debated on the topic for a week with a senior official of the public affairs agency clarifying that they were not involved in this and that neither do they handle PR for Mr. Modi.
I decided to give my perspective and raise some questions for other members in the online debate in form of the mail given below:
Media is making numerous mistakes everyday in every vertical of reporting - business to sports. An insurance company claimed an innovation about a week back, which one of our clients had implemented in 2011. The media reported it without checking on facts.
We as PR professionals are also taught to find out spin angles, which can project, the news as being the first/ only/ best/ latest of its kind, etc.
I think we should analyse the situation at two levels.
1. Whether the media has enough time, resources to do due diligence of every fact thrown at them. Are they absolved of all responsibility once they show a source for their story?
2. As PR professionals, do we have enough resources for doing the due diligence required? Do we have the will/ strength to ask our clients to verify the claims being made by them?
In the example being cited, there is obviously a lot that doesn’t meet the eye. Can we expect a story like that to pass through desk and editor without being stopped? Can the media, which is dependent on advertising revenues from political parties/ corporate, be truly independent? Isn’t the media biased?
I would love to hear views from readers on the above. Meanwhile, if you are still with me in this article, it means you do see some sense in reading more. So, here are my thoughts.
The media still has a powerful impact on how people view the world but face tight budgets and fierce competition. In such a scenario, reporters with pressing deadlines may not have time to find and verify new sources. Instead they tend to rely on government reports, press releases, and an array of vetted sources but the fact is media is still making mistakes everyday.
Media conglomerates place priority on profitable operations. Biases and interests of management impact their editorial decisions. It’s a fact that those who can influence the news mostly tend to influence. Many newspapers and television stations think twice before reporting a story that might be damaging to their advertisers or their political affiliations, and will rather choose to avoid the story, if possible.
We PR professionals are equally responsible for wrong reportage bysharing information as mandated by our clients without crosschecking facts? Is the PR well armed with facts or arm-twisted by clients? Such questions open a can of worms that spill out the beans on clients-retainers-need-sustenance in a cut-throat industry.
In the age of market-driven journalism and agenda-driven PR, during gathering and dissemination of news, professional code of ethics is being violated everyday. And till people answer these questions, they will continue to be violated. Till then, we can open our eyes and see all that glitters is not gold and all that is reported may or may not be true.