After news reports focused on swine flu, the snow “catastrophe“ (proving to be scarcely more than a hearty winter), and the tragic Haitian earthquake, last week’s press was inundated with a different strain of media attention.
For days, Steve Jobs and his Apple iPad camped out on front pages, occupying additional space in business and lifestyle sections. Perhaps PR businesses feel tempted to project “ad value” – estimating the millions Apple would have spent had they paid for the free publicity the iPad received via print articles, TV reports, Internet discussion and broadcast airtime – as many PR strategists would in such cases, hoping to convince clients of the great value and importance of their services
Of course the media must report on product innovation – it’s an integral component of reportage, and as consumers, we expect to be clued into the emergence of new technology. However when thinking this through, one must question just who is wrapped around whose finger when Steve Jobs is able to showcase his new baby around the world free of charge. Is journalism still credible if it offers PR so readily? Aren’t publishers damaging their own firms by shrinking newsrooms, thus opening the floodgates to PR content without hesitation?
Stressed editors are frequently transforming press releases into journalistic articles with a simple click of the mouse, neglecting to add value by fact-checking or contributing independent research. Increasingly surreptitious advertising can be sighted in editorial sections, perhaps the most reliable way for journalism and publishing companies to make themselves superfluous. In this case, we – readers who continue to pay for such news and companies that continue to purchase advertising space rather than trying (like Apple) to utilize cheaper methods of reaching target groups – are the foolish ones.
Published in Die Furche, February 4, 2010