"Impediments to Journalism"


PRWeek, a publication for people in the public relations industry, has just interviewed Slate media critic Jack Shafer. Bear that venue in mind as you enjoy this exchange:

PRWeek: How do you feel about PR pros?

Shafer: Well, I have found, with only rare exceptions, that PR officers are impediments to journalism. They are the people who man the barricades, who salt the earth before you can get to it to plant your story. The number of times in my career that I have responded to somebody doing outreach PR, trying to convince me to do a story, and turned that overture into a story, you might be able to count on two fingers. And it was only because I was already planning or desiring to do a story and it was just a coincidence. And I'm certain that in no case did I ever write the story that the PR officer wanted. I'm certain that the PR officer would have just as soon that I'd never been born. I don't feel bad about saying this, as I don't think PR people like me any more than I like them. They're time-wasters, hall monitors. I just want to call up the person I want to talk to and not go through this incredibly long dance with a PR officer in order to get to my quarry. Their interests are so alien from mine. That said, it's not that every person manning a PR office has blocked my efforts to do a story. But it's only the rare one that's willing to aid you in getting access to the story you want.

PRWeek: If you accept the fact that you have to deal with PR people…

Shafer: I don't deal with PR people. As best I can, I will avoid PR people. If they won't allow me to talk to the person that I need to talk to, then I have to do the story by other means.