Media & Communication Department

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Lisa Harrison

Misplaced Blame: Video News Releases,

Public Relations, and the Press

The tension between the occupations of public relations and journalism has been ongoing since the development of the public relations field in the very early 1900's. In looking at the two purposes of these occupations, it is evident that they have very different missions. Journalists working for a press in a democracy should provide information and facts through credible, accurate, and objective reporting. This is often in conflict with public relations practitioners' job to effectively disseminate their clients' messages to the public, because they rely on the press as a credible third party source. In this paper, I explain how the tension between these two fields developed, with reference to Ivy Lee, Edward Bernays, and the early history of public relations. With present-day tensions in mind, this paper challenges the public belief-partly propagated by journalists themselves-that the biased reporting found in today's newspapers and news reports is the fault of public relations practitioners. Public relations practitioners, I argue, are merely upholding their responsibilities to disseminate clients' messages. It is the newsrooms, victims of intense profit pressures, that are not upholding the ideals of a democratic press. This argument is further illustrated by focusing on public relations practitioners' use of video news releases as an effective PR tool, with suggestions for how newsrooms might better utilize these information subsidies in their news reports.