OP-ED: News from the news makers

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OP-ED: News from the news makers

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 09:05
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Many of the government offices have public relations officers. These officers are tasked with providing information to the public and people who request it.

With social media and the internet, the barriers to entry for publishing have been drastically reduced. It is possible for these offices to talk directly to the public. Often this information is helpful and informs the public. They also are an important source of information for the media. The vast majority of people who work in government public relations are careful to provide information on what their office is doing impartially. 

However, there is a danger in government public relations offices. These offices may only provide the portion of information that is beneficial to their office. The public relations office reports directly to the official they are reporting on, so it is difficult for them to criticize their bosses. 

The government offices are funded with taxpayer’s money and if they are being used to positively influence the public’s opinion of the office, then they are providing a reelection benefit to the incumbent politicians. This would be a bad outcome.
It is important that there are third parties that act as a check to information being provided. This is where local media is very important. They can inform consumers of what issues they are hearing about. They can also highlight successes that are important. 

It is important for the government to provide information and the public relations fulfill that important function. Officials may also want to shape the news and shade it in such a way that makes their office look better. This is why it is important to look at all this information skeptically. 

The local media may also have its own agenda. Often there are sensationalist journalists who strive to turn minor mistakes into great wrongdoing. The local officials burned by this behavior may feel the desire to control the narrative. The official has a staff of people whose job it is to provide information to the public. 

There is a subtle line between providing information and creating a narrative. Whether working for a public official or a newspaper, the journalist should avoid the temptation to create a narrative. Public relations need to provide the most pertinent information regardless of how it reflects on their bosses and reporters need to avoid sensationalism. They need to act as true journalists. 
 

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