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May 3, 2011
'A Zone We've Never Seen Before'
 
From Pro Publica comes one of the fullest treatments we've seen of the changing of the nation's information guard, from the print media to the Web, PR, whatever...This piece is headed "PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking Newsrooms," but it's a transition in progress with the ultimate phase unclear. For now, ponder a very meaty presentation that's been co-published with the Columbia Journalism Review.

Fewer reporters, lots more PR people. "I don't know anyone who can look at that calculus and see a very good outcome," says Robert McChesney, co-author of the recent book "The Death and Life of American Journalism." "The muscles of journalism are weakening and the muscles of public relations are bulking up as if they were on steroids," adds David Barstow, an investigative reporter for The New York Times.

Barstow recalls how, when he walked into a Houston conference room to cover last year's heariangs on the Gulf oil spill, the room was packed, not with reporters but with PR people.

"What we are seeing now is the demise of journalism at the same time we have an increasing level of public relations and propaganda. We are entering a zone that has never been seen before in this country," is McChesney's appraisal.

There's lots more by way of background and supporting statistics in the Pro Publica piece. It's a roadmap to an information destination that's unclear, but we all need to keep up with what's unfolding. It's nothing less than our changing connection with the reality around us — and who its key interpreters are likely to be.

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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