The Economist's March 30 issue has a take on the "state of the news media 2013" report issued last week by Pew Research’s Project for Excellence in Journalism about the diminishing news hole found in America’s newspapers and TV stations.
In that piece, the British publication makes the point that newspapers and magazines are "relying on outsiders to fill up space as their staffs shrinks."
For instance, the magazine notes that think tanks are providing content, which apparently conforms to the lofty standards of the Economist.
But stuff supplied by PR firms: perish the thought. Here’s what the Economist wrote:
"A more pernicious trend is the growing number of workers. In 1980, PR flaks and journalists prowled in around equal numbers; in 2008 the ration of PR folk to journalists was nearly four to one."
When it comes to providing material to the media, The Economist is applying a double standard. Think tanks have their own political/social agendas. They are advocates, just as PR people push to promote a client or viewpoint.
If a struggling newspaper is forced to rely on content, it shouldn't matter if the material came from a PR firm or think tank, as long as the information is clearly labeled with a sponsor identification.
It's a new world in medialand. The 170-year old magazine has to get with the times.
After all, it's safe to say that many of the articles that run in its august pages stemmed from pitches from the savviest PR players in London or New York.