I lay much of what ails us today at the feet of Public Relations, which has so permeated “news” as to make it impossible for many to know what to believe.
At Carolina in the early 1970s, where I studied in the School of Journalism and took a single course in PR, we learned a professional code of ethics that clearly excluded PR.
Controlling news content was always the goal of PR, slanting the news so that one client looks better than another. But back in the day, PR was in a separate tent, and we were talking about influencing choices in buying burgers, not much different from advertising, but written so as to slip in as “news content”–free advertising some called it, when it worked. Now its tent includes “alternate facts” espoused as truth by press secretaries, and the slippery slope that got us from then to now isn’t hard to see. If there’s an opposing point of view, we have to give it an equal platform, side by side on the editorial page, or maybe on consecutive days: Walter Williams one day, Maureen Dowd the next.
Now it’s not so much about slanting news one way or another as it is drowning out those whose “facts” don’t coincide with our own. And you don’t need me to tell you it’s a mess!