I have been reading a lot of PR Vs. Journalism posts these days, this makes me remember a seminar I attended by Tony Harcup, Author of the book “The Ethical Journalist” who was talking about his book. Being disappointed with the whole profession today, he said, “What is happening to the News today? This is not journalism. Journalists these days have become ‘Churnalist,’ They just Churn news.” He added that journalists get more than 100 pitches a day and now they have started just churning it out, or churning news from the news feeders. I think what Tony said holds value, as these days above 40% of the news which is in the newspapers is provided by PR.
Furthermore, during my recent work placement, many journalists asked me if they could get a one to one interview with Shilpa Shetty, where I said let me see if I can accommodate you as there were over 100 journalists at the Press Conference. Journalists were accommodated where ever possible. But many journalists who requested for one on one interviews, didn’t stick around to wait if they could be accommodated after the Press conference was over. They covered the official press release and went to have lunch. But some who roughed it out a bit, sticking around for the right opportunity, did get their bytes (read stories). I remember one journalist was accommodated by having an interview with Shilpa Shetty, on the stairs of the Hotel, after the 2nd press conference and one-on-one interview sessison was over.
Seeing the number of journalists who didn’t rough it out or wait, I quite understand Tony Harcup’s comment about Churnalism.
Tony Harcup further said in his seminar, that many times the journalists are helpless as they have to report ‘what sells’ . This takes a journalist away from covering the news which he or she should. Celebrity news being one of the big contributors to this cause. Besides the ‘Reporting what Sells’ problem faced by journalists, I understand the frustration journalists go through when they get calls from PR executives about whether they received his/her email. My take on this situation is that call a journalist only when you know that the story is very good and when you are sure that he might have missed the story.
Many PR practitioners say that calling up to check works, but my question is, how many times? It might work 1 out 10 (maybe). Calling and emailing over and over again is making PR get a image as junk provider which even David Henderson said last month in his post on Strumpette that “PR is becoming seen as online spam.“