As traditional news media founder, many wonder who will write the news that people can depend on as truly fair and balanced. That responsibility may fall to public relations professionals, who should bone up on their responsibilities to the greater community of good.
Social media strategist Sally Falkow speculates that the dwindling band of traditional media hands will need increasing help from PR professionals to cover all the news. Writing for The Proactive Report, Falkow says 40 percent of working journalists believe their dependence on PR content will increase as a consequence of shrinking news staffs.
That is a far cry from the days when reporters and editors dismissed most press releases as fluff and wadded them into the wastebasket. I know because that's what I did as a reporter and editor.
An emerging symbiosis between traditional media and PR professionals raises fascinating questions. Can media guardians, however meager their ranks, trust what PR professionals produce? Can PR professionals represent their clients' interests at the same time as fulfilling their responsibility for telling the truth to the greater community?
Falkow adds another issue — can PR professionals keep up with media trends? Traditional media, along with bloggers and manifesto masters, draw people to their online content via sly tweets about breaking news events. Keeping your Twitter feed up and running on your computer or mobile device is a great way to stay connected and remain current on news events. However, far too many PR social media campaigns use Twitter to push their product at viewers, often with mixed success.
She suggests one of the best ways PR professionals can add value to news coverage is through video content. This is where online news channels are headed, especially as mobile devices make watching video easy and immediate.
Producing video content, Falkow says, opens the door to collaboration between traditional media and PR professionals. Traditional journalists need good quotes. PR professionals want to deliver the key messages they have created for their clients. This could be a happy marriage.
Competition for online attention will force PR professionals to produce something far better than fluffery. The best material will enrich traditional media coverage, perhaps extending beyond the "he said, she said" formula of too much of today's news columns. A more complex story can be told through multiple voices honed to make their sharpest points.
This may not be a perfect picture for the news of the future. Certainly many will argue that other options, such as cooperative press organizations and public broadcasting, offer greater promise. But in the great wash of the Internet, more options are better than a few. A world where PR professionals do their job — for client and community — is attractive, appealing and possible. Collaborative journalism should be on the table for discussion and experimentation.