Mediations: Philip Young

  • Mediations comments on public relations theory and practice, with an emphasis on social media and communication ethics. Philip Young is project leader for NEMO: New Media, Modern Democracy at Campus Helsingborg, Lund University, Sweden. All views expressed here are personal and should not be seen as representing Lund University or any other organisation.

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    Great post, Philip.

    Not sure I took it all in at a first reading... but my thoughts on the issue are broadly in agreement.

    However, is it possible to presume 'truth' and 'accuracy' are the same thing?

    Could you argue that both PROs and journos adhere to accuracy?PROs don't want to release lies or false statements (unless they work for Max C) any more than journos want to report them?

    Truth, on the other hand, is perhaps shaped by context. A story's 'truth' is perhaps altered depending on the wider framework within which the PRO or journalist works.

    So while a press release may be accurate to the PRO it may not contain the full 'truth' because the company's board may wish to keep certain 'facts' hidden.

    Similarly, while a journo may want to write an accurate story absed on the 'facts' from both sides, this may not fit into the paper's editorial policy (cf. the Daily Mail, Sun etc) and so the story may not represent the full 'truth'.


    You are right, truth and accuracy can be very different. Here is an example I use in PR ethics lectures:

    Tottenham Hotspur (yesterday) announced plans to raise £15m through a share offer (The Guardian, Dec 24, 2003). The club supported this with the following (wholly accurate) assertion:

    Current performance
    The Club is currently in 15th place in the Premier League, having won 5 and drawn 3 of the 17 league games played so far this season. The club … is still in the FA Cup, having been drawn to play Crystal Palace in the third round.

    All true … but 3 wins + 5 draws in 17 games equals a less impressive 9 defeats.

    And it was no surprise Spurs were still in the FA Cup - their first match was at least a week away...

    I've only been in the PR industry for about 2 years, but it does seem that many journalists have blind spots in seeing their own agendas. PR is, in some respects, a very honest industry because we represent a client and we are open about that fact.

    Many journalists can twist a story or take a particular view, or sub-eds can place a mis-leading headline, which has more to do with pandering to the views of their readership rather than representing some greater truth about a story.

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