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PR and news production

Tagged as the so-called “fourth estate (Benkler, 2006),” media’s seemingly overwhelming power and influence are expected to aid the public in ensuring government accountability. This purpose can be attributed to the fact that media organizations act as society’s “watchdogs (Schultz, 1998)” wherein governmental activities are readily reported to the public to see to it that abuse is minimized and that there is transparency. Apparently, far beyond providing leisure and entertainment, media’s functions have been extended into rendering socially significant information and increasing social awareness.

Thus, it would not come as too much of a surprise if media channels have been instrumental in provoking mass movements and direct action. News is a central (product) that media establishments continuously produce. Briefly defined, a news is an account of recent or contemporary events (Ray, 2007). It is through these materials that media establishments are able to empower and inform the public. Critically speaking, describing news as a mere “account of recent events” is an outright understatement. News, more than anything else, are stories that contain relevant details.

It embodies data that help communities and individuals create sound decisions. News items are both social and cultural products. However, the problem with today’s media system is the

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blurring lines that differentiate news materials from PR (public relations) copies. A critical examination of this matter shows that while PR is mainly focused on building its clients’ public image, PR copies have high tendencies of being identified as news reports. Similarly, the constant incorporation of press releases into hard news makes it difficult for the public to distinguish which media contents are designed to inform or promote.

This is most especially true in the context of highly passive media audiences or viewers. In this context, one cannot help but question the degree of independence that media institutions and practitioners enjoy. If clear distinctions cannot be made, then media are no less than institutionalized agents of deceit and confusion. The problem with the seemingly symbiotic relationship between public relations and news production is that the former tends to dominate the other.

As public relations have been constantly employed by business and political actors, news items have clearly morphed into a spectacle of grandiose publicity and propaganda. The so-called “watchdog” is now heavily bounded in chains to protect self-serving motives. Due to its role as news providers; inequalities in power and authority, PR has readily shaped, modified and controlled news stories that resulted to a decaying pursuit of media abuse and exploitation. News characteristics Stories that land on the front page and accumulate much of television broadcast and coverage are carefully selected and examined by news editors.

A story is not automatically dismissed as a newsworthy material. There are a few reasons that would best explain this scenario. First, newspapers have limited spaces to cover all events. This is also true in the field of broadcasting. News programs have specific airtime limits. Secondly, the operational costs that are involved in news production are very expensive. Under these circumstances, one may ask, how does a story become a news item? Sloan and Parcell (2002) discussed that news possesses certain characteristics.

Initially, news stories should be timely (Sloan & Parcell, 2002). This means that these materials should mirror recent or present events (Fleming et. al, 2006). It should manifest up to date information. The stories’ timeliness primarily determines its relevance and significance to the public. Secondly, Sloan and Parcell (2002) elucidated that “proximity” is also one of the main ingredients of a news story. In order to deliver news on a timely manner, news organizations take into consideration the distance or location wherein an important event took place.

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