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Rampton su rp e giornalismo

20/01/2004
Sheldon Rampton, che insieme a John Stauber ha lanciato nel 1996 il sito di PR Watch (già rivista cartacea dal 1993), pubblica un interessante pezzo su www.anti-spin.com che vale la pena leggere integralmente e che dunque riportiamo qui sotto. L'obiettivo dei due è sempre stato quello di svelare il lato oscuro del mondo delle Relazioni pubbliche, nei cui confronti non sono mai stati particolarmente teneri. Ma questa volta Rampton punta il dito contro i giornalisti, troppo spesso protetti dal mito di integrità e indipendenza della categoria che cozza poi con la realtà dei fatti. Rampton dice che "criticare le agenzie di PR perché manipolano delle notizie equivale a criticare gli squali perché mangiano altri pesci. E' il loro lavoro...". Piuttosto, aggiunge, bisognerebbe rivolgere le critiche a quei giornalisti che permettono ai professionisti delle RP di inserirsi all'interno delle loro storie. La ragione di ciò sarebbe da ricondurre alla mancanza di tempo che non consente un accurato e indipendente lavoro di indagine. Criticising PR people for manipulating the news is like criticising sharks for eating other fish By Sheldon Rampton di PR Watch The popular myth is that journalists are a hardy, independent group of dogged researchers who won't let anything stand in the way of a good story. In reality, things just aren't that clean. Many of the people who work in public relations are former journalists who know how newsrooms operate and know how to get their client's version of the facts into stories. They spend huge amounts of time and money compiling lists of journalists and even dossiers so that they know what individual journalist think and believe. They even keep track of reporters' hobbies with an eye to finding ways of gaining access and influence. In addition, they are not at all shy about using their clients' clout as advertisers to put pressure on journalists. When university academics have attempted to study the influence that PR exerts over journalism, they have typically found that somewhere between 40 to 60 percent of everything that appears in a daily newspaper originates with a public relations firm. Another trend in recent years has been the blurring of boundaries between journalism and public relations. For example, many universities that used to have separate journalism departments have now combined it with public relations to create a single department of "communications." John and I have been very critical of the public relations industry, but I always add that criticizing PR firms for manipulating the news is like criticizing sharks for eating other fish. It's their JOB as public relations professionals to manipulate the news and public opinion. Most of the real criticism, I think, should properly be levied at journalists for LETTING PR practitioners insert their spin into stories. And the real reason this happens is that many journalists, especially in the commercial media, simply don't have enough time to do a proper job of independent investigation. As a result, it becomes easy and even necessary for them to rely on the news releases, backgrounders and other information handouts that they get from PR people. The pressures I have outlined affect the type of information we get from the mass media. It is important to note, however, that none of these forms of pressure are inherently unethical in and of themselves. Just as corporations work to get their point of view into the news through public relations, environmental and other activist groups do the same thing. In that contest, corporations have a clear advantage: vastly larger budgets and a much more immediate motivation (financial self-interest) to keep them focused as they define and deliver their propaganda. All of the environmental organizations currently in existence will never have a budget equal to that of a single manufacturer of GM crops such as Monsanto when it comes time to debate whether their products benefit society. This does not mean that NGOs and other sectors of society are completely at the mercy of the spin doctors. As several people within the public relations industry have noticed, they have one major weakness when they clash with groups like Greenpeace or Amnesty International: the public trusts NGOs, more than it trusts businesses, governments or their PR firms. And public opinion, as someone recently quipped, is today the world's "second superpower," rivaling the United States in terms of its ability to influence international and local events. One of the striking things about much modern propaganda, in fact, is how predictable and pedestrian it has become. The PR pros continue to plant their sources in the news, and in the United States at least, much of the daily news has become a tedious repetition of the usual prejudices from the usual suspects. Ultimately, however, modern propaganda has proven more successful at reinforcing the prejudices of the propagandists themselves than it has been at indoctrinating its target audiences. While the Murdoch media and even BBC look increasingly like official conduits for official sources, a thriving alternate media has emerged including web sites, blogging, and other increasingly important forums of contentious debate. Opinion polls show that fewer and fewer people trust the mass media, just as fewer and few trust the government, corporations and other major institutions of modern society. Does this mean that modern capitalist have entered some stage of decline, akin to the beginning of the disintegration of the Roman Empire? Possibly, or perhaps it simply means that these institutions will need to reinvent themselves, as they have done in the past and as the British monarchy has also done several times now in order to preserve its spot at the top of the social pyramid.

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