Miriam Cosic writes in The Australian about journalist Nick Davies who says more than half the news in Britain’s top five newspapers was generated by public relations companies or taken from wire services. Davies is in Australia to promote his book Flat Earth News.
While this is a great background piece that makes me want to rush out and buy the book — I will look for it this afternoon — it paints a depressing picture of the state of journalism. I’ve worked in the industry for almost thirty years and can’t help but agree with Davies’ basic premise that today’s journalists are now expected to do a once-over-lightly job and rock the boat as little as possible.
Davis points the finger of blame at the media corporations. This analysis can’t be separated from the widely reported decline of traditional news media. Conventional thinking says people are moving away from newspapers, magazines and broadcast news because of the Internet. I believe the audiences would be declining even without the arrival of online news because news audiences are being turned off by the news media.
One aspect of this whole issue that was overlooked in The Australian story is that public relations companies now massively outgun newspapers in terms of personnel, expertise and experience. This is particularly noticable in New Zealand where the newspapers appear to be largely staffed by young reporters in their 20s and early 30s while many of the brightest and best of the older generation are now employed by PR companies.
This post was updated at 20:00 on August 25.