JOURNALISTS WHO DON’T INVESTIGATE. One of the things I grump about, but don’t post on, is the newspaper article that is transparently a press release; I can visualize the journalist changing the heading on the press release to include his byline. I have wondered whether I was being too cynical because, of course, I’m only guessing. Whoever wrote this article in the Economist is much more cynical or knows a lot about how journalism operates. The article suggests that what I had imagined occurs much more than I had ever thought. The article is prompted by a recent incident in which a large public relations firm was hired by Facebook to secretly plant adverse stories in newspapers about its competitor Google. An individual blogger went public with what was happening. The Economist thinks there is a lot of this kind of thing. The article points out data that show that: “for each American journalist there are now, on average, six flacks hassling him to run crummy stories ….” It also says that few journalists would be as brave as the blogger was, “thereby jeopardising their relationship with a powerful PR [public relations] agency.” The article concludes with the image of a journalist facing “a growling, red-faced news editor demanding to know why they didn’t get a story that had been spoon-fed to a rival, more PR-friendly paper.”

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