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public relationsHere’s a different slant on a story that’s been doing the rounds for the last week, about yet more redundancies amongst journalists, with The Independent stopping its print edition and more discussion of Fairfax’s path towards fully-digital.

At the heart of most of the stories is the refrain that the quality of journalism is going down.

But here’s the rub. The quality of my reading has gone up, way up. Globalisation and the Internet has given us all access to a huge range of wonderful, competing outlets.

And, almost all the information in the world is searchable – still for me a profound concept.

As an escapee from TV journalism, where I made a career for 30+ years, I understand the arguments. The quality of some of the programs where I once worked are plumbing new lows in the chase of ratings and relevance.

It was in 2000, after an eight-month investigation on 60 Minutes, that my boss first said to me, “That’s the last one of those we’ll do; the advertisers are going elsewhere.” That was the day I decided to leave journalism, and it’s been tough watching colleagues struggling ever since.

This is how the NYT, itself managing cutbacks, saw the demise of the Independent:

“The Independent tried to put a positive spin on its announcement, calling itself Britain’s “first national newspaper title to move to a digital-only future,” but in an internal memo, Evgeny Lebedev, who owns The Independent, said that print publication was no longer economically viable.”

“The Independent is not the only newspaper struggling in Britain. The Guardian Media Group announced last month that it was seeking to slash costs by 20 percent amid concerns over its finances. It blamed a decline in print advertising, coupled by digital revenue that was not growing quickly enough and the heavy costs of international expansion.”

To me, journalists have one purpose – ‘To give us the information and entertainment we want’. They do that three ways: accurately reworking what someone has said (news); investigations generating new information; opinion pieces.

Different publishers cater for different audiences by juggling those three. If they fail to deliver we go elsewhere. And we now have almost limitless options.

Public Relations

And there’s a small imperfect and emerging role here for public relations, delivering raw materials to journalists. The best way that works is a collaboration: a good PR person will help a journalist piece a story together; a good journalist will let a PR person do some of the hard work. And each keeps the other accurate. As two often unfriendly sectors in the one communication industry, we struggle with that concept.

Author Peter Wilkinson

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