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Truth & objectivity: post modern casualties or victims of PR piracy?

July 1, 2011

This week’s topic mentions about journalists getting their stories from Public Relations (PR) releases. PR releases, in my opinion, are usually angled to give the organisation who issues it, to be put in a good light. I mean, why would you want to publish something bad about yourself? If you use the PR release as the basis of your story, what truth and objectivity is it? Truth maybe in what the organisation in launching or initiating – for example.

So technically, almost anything can be made into news. As long as it’s important, it’s news, right?

I’ve heard stories from my Aunt who’s a journalist – she says each day her desk is pretty much filled with PR releases; from launch of a new product or event. Everybody wants to be heard.  The role of a journalist, here, we “vow” to keep the public informed, educated and entertained -Essentially be an agent of information for the people and they act like a sieve or strainer – to strain information (Cave 1998 cited in Tapsall & Varley 2001).

Keeping people informed means that there is a need to be truthful and objective- do we really? How do we explain why some news make it in the news and some don’t? Like in the earlier part, almost anything can be news. So, functioning like a sieve or strainer; doesn’t that mean we filter out information? Putting in what we deem to be newsworthy. What’s so truthful and objective about that?

And I thought the point that the presenting group made was really interesting – that a journalist’s job now becomes like an “office job”, where journalists can sit in their office and click away on their computers to churn out news. Like in the case of basing a story on a news release. Piracy of a PR release- you think? Where it’s pretty much paraphrasing the entire PR release and out it goes; not much research done, probably a few phone calls and that’s pretty much it.

Dr. Steve McIlwaine who taught us previously once told me (on a personal note at least) that as writers, we should be “drafters”, where the final copy of the story, isn’t really always final- I guess it makes sense as chapter 7 pointed out that “good journalism required ongoing investigation” (p. 103). So I guess before we ever publish a story, we really need to make sure that all facts are correct and, ALWAYS ASK when you’re not entirely sure.

That’s so much from me… Before I sign off; I’d like to share some pointers to remember when reporting (with truth and objectivity) through the readings and they are:

  1. Never to believe and use what we see and hear until the most “expert” source confirms it
  2. There are many sides to a story as many as people want to tell them
  3. Always know that there’s someone who knows more & better about an issue more than you

To conclude, I guess there’s no really absolute truth and objectivity when it comes to reporting. At the end of the day, some news don’t make it into news because there’s no “news value” in it.

Till the next,



Tapsall, S & Varley, C (eds) 2001, Journalism Theory in Practice, Oxford University Press, Australia.


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