Media & Communication Department

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williams Courtney Williams
Spin Cycle: Public Relations, Journalism, and the Threat to Democracy

In this paper, completed in Communication and Public Relations, I explore the threat that public relations poses to journalism in a healthy democracy. Journalists, who typically work for large, profit-maximizing conglomerates bent on cost-cutting, rely on public relations practitioners for much of their "news" - unbeknown to the public. The result is that the well-heeled clients of PR firms get their self-interested messages passed off as objective-seeming journalism, at the expense of a free and robust public debate that democracy requires. This paper, drawing on specific examples from recent public relations campaigns, argues that the current symbiosis between reporters and PR is dangerous. On a more hopeful note, the paper asserts that exposure of these often-hidden tactics renders them far less effective (and appealing) to potential clients.