Sunday, May 30, 2010

What Makes News?: A Public Relations Perspective

We in our department are in this good habit of discussing and probing on issues which bother us in our profession of journalism and public relations. One such issue which came up again in the discussion was the one on Pseudo Events.Is the definition of Pseudo Events as described by Daniel Boorstein as that which "exists for the sole purpose of the media publicity and serves little to no other function in real life. Without the media, nothing meaningful actually occurs at the event, so pseudo-events are considered “real” only after they are viewed through news, advertisement, television  or other types of media." hold true to defining all news emerging from press conferences as pseudo events as press conferences are called as pseudo events?

Mr.Sanjay Ranade, Reader at our department had opined that  Daniel Boorstein has defined this concept from a historian's point of view.All news cannot be pseudo events, as all news cannot be 'created' for the media.There will always be news which needs to be given to the media as there is no other way the media could get the news.So this brought us to yet another hypothesis that "all press conferences are not pseudo events." Supporting this view is W. Lance Bennett who categorizes news like this:

1)Fully Controlled (released news, pseudo-event)
2)Partially Controlled (press conference, etc.)
3) Uncontrolled (ex. Watergate, Daniel Ellsberg, Iraq prisoner abuse photos)

If you notice Bennett does not classify all news as pseudo events.Nor does he say that all press conferences are pseudo events, and he puts it under the category of being partially controlled.

So If you connect this with agenda building in public relations I will say that agenda building of public relations stems from this very thought that only when information is scarce will journalists turn to public relations for information as they are confirmed sources of official information about the company. As rightly put by Carl Botan and Vincent Hazleton in their Book Public Relations Theory II "The greater the information scarcity the better the chances that sources that control the information can influence the media agenda." So this may not always be 'created' information but genuine information to be given for dissemination. The entire process of agenda building if you closely watch is a a very dynamic process of making news.The news here may not be always 'created'  here even though it is being made.

More on Agenda building in the next note...

Let me know your thoughts.


  1. very interesting meenakshi madam.look forward to more such interesting notes
    ramakrishna prayag
    associate director- media
    new delhi

  2. Thank You Prayag! There will be more such updates on this place.

  3. Agree with what you say... there are however a couple of points to ponder....
    - The very premise of having a Public Relations or Corporate Communications Department in a private organisation is for image building or promotions and is linked directly or indirectly towards commercial gains. Would you then call the information given by by them, whether in a press conference or press release as 'manufactured' or 'created' news?
    - In a research it is mentioned that the 'New Media' often adds on to the effect of an agenda building exercise by redistributing the news over several new media channels which are further linked to each other widening the information network. In such cases, does the 'news' remain 'controlled'?

  4. Thanks for your feedback Mr.Karandikar.Not all news here again can be created, especially situations like crisis where it is important that the company speaks from their behalf before they are misread by outside forces.This may not be related to commercial gains as an institution or an individual has a right to explain himself before being judged.There could be other situations where certain kind of news only the company sources reveal.Thus journalists in such cases are constanlty calling up the PROs of such companies.

    On your second point, New media is a platform where agenda building and agenda setting is actually done by the company themsleves as there is not external gatekeeper and you make your own news and is controlled.Though like Bennett says in the blog above the news can fall into totally controlled or partially controlled in this case totally controlled as the dissemniator is also the newsmaker.

    But with a caution I would like to add that new media is equally dangerous as your news can be can be misread by many as being immodest.A lot of people also say that new media is also a perfect spot for journalist to get information about the institution so they can re-use these sources for making news.Both situations appear possible.Though this subject needs to be looked at more deeply.

  5. Really Good info about Public Relations. Thanks