Public relations vs journalism
There is often a claim that the readers or viewers of a media outlet actually are the owners of that newspaper, magazine, TV or radio. Can it be really so? Unfortunately, to deliver an affirmative answer, some extraordinary effort and the help of some drugs might be needed.
Hasan Erçakıca, a Turkish Cypriot journalist who was the spokesman of Mehmet Ali Talat’s presidency, wrote this week that a Turkish Cypriot businessman wrote in a closed WhatsApp group that he has allocated 100,000 British pounds to contribute to the purchase of a media outlet and asked other businessmen to spell out their potential contribution.
Why? The businessman was frustrated that the media was not adequately reflecting the views and expectations of his business concerns and, of course, the political group he believed would perform better than others.
Obviously the businessman in question must be one of those new rich who believes everything can be bought, including perceptions of reality and the views of a journalist. It is definitely an insult, but I can hardly say he was totally wrong. Even though journalists often claim they defend their political views, support the truth and chase after reality, it is indeed difficult to say all journalists are honest and objective after seeing so many people changing their Mecca professionally.
Many colleagues would reject it, but many people who have been involved in the academic research of journalism, journalists and the information sphere unfortunately also support the view that journalists often confuse public relations with journalism, which is a sacrosanct duty of being the critical eye of the public.
Unfortunately, many researchers say that like any other craftsmen, be it a tailor or a merchant, journalists have become merchants, building and selling public opinion. Reading such comments naturally saddens me, as it should any journalist, but if journalists have become agents to construct and sell public opinion, where is the news? Could it be fabricated to serve the purpose?
However, to my understanding, in representative democracies where people exercise their right to govern through representatives they elect, the media is required to provide information for and against all argument subjects so that people can make a sound individual analysis, and a decision – that is, a choice.
To achieve that rather than artificial issues and imaginary subjects, the media must deal with everyday issues and provide people with sufficient and versatile details of the issues under discussion so that people can make an intelligent choice.
Furthermore, the media must be pluralist in both while providing information as well as analyzing the issue under discussion.
Pluralism in the media cannot be restricted to media ownership, but rather there ought to be pluralism in the array of ideas and evaluations presented.
If in a media outlet there is no information on everyday issues, that is, if there is no news, and there is plenty of public relations activities, there is of course no need to indulge in a discussion about who owns the media or the importance of media ownership.
If we take the Northern Cyprus example, it is so unfortunate, but the bitter reality is that there is an acute decline of independent and objective reporting.
Is it not why people who want the government to make tourism development plans, urban development allocations or take measures to ease the impact of COVID-19 in the tourism industry all have their own newspaper and TV stations, besides magazines and radio stations?
Reality and perception are two different and often irrelevant phenomena. News people deal with reality, PR people deal with creating perceptions.