For those of us in the profession of public relations, the rise of fake news and the attacks on legitimate media outlets have been deeply disturbing.
The Code of Ethics developed by our industry’s leading professional association, PRSA, calls out honesty as one of six, key professional values that its members uphold:
We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.
PRSA recently went a step further and issued this strongly worded statement condemning alternative facts.
This increasingly hostile environment for journalists comes on top of an already financially-challenged reality for many news outlets.
The stressed state of the journalism industry has pushed me to think about my moral and ethical duty as a public relations professional: What can and should I be doing to support truthfulness and excellent journalism?
Journalists go places we can’t (or won’t) go. Their mission is to report the truth. Inconveniently for them, Truth doesn’t always show up and sit down to be interviewed. Truth often skips news conferences. Truth frequently remains in the shadows, or hangs out in far-off, dangerous places. In fact, Truth is sometimes held hostage, or wounded, even killed.
Journalism hunts Truth down – sometimes aggressively, sometimes patiently – and ushers it into the light. The work of journalists brings Truth to our doorstep, our mobile device, our radio.
I used to believe it was enough to honor that process by simply being a prodigious consumer of the news.
Then I became convinced that I needed to become a vocal activist for journalism and a defender of the Fourth Estate.
I still do both. But now, I think there is something more that is required of public relations professionals (actually, by all of us, but most certainly those of us in the field of PR).
We must actively participate in the underwriting of the free and independent press we claim to support.
We need to be paid subscribers.
It’s no longer enough just to consume it. We need to pay for it.
It’s awfully easy to rely on Google alerts and social media to believe we are “up” on the news (that’s a whole, other blog post right there). But what does that type of news “consumption” do to advance strong journalism?
If we truly believe the powerful words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, then we owe it to ourselves, our profession, our employees, our clients, and our fellow Americans to do everything in our power to protect the principles they stand for.
And that, for me, means paying for access to great journalism, and paying to keep fine journalists searching for and reporting truth.
A free press carries a high price tag. We as PR professionals should lead by example in demonstrating how much we value it – and what we’re willing to pay to ensure its survival. #SubscribeToTruth