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Mar 15, 2010

Spinning the Media: Key findings in a week in the life of the media

2203 separate stories were analysed across 10 Australian newspapers between September 7 and 11, 2009, to see whether they were initiated by public relations or promotions. Here's what came out in the wash.

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  • 2203 separate stories were analysed across 10 newspapers between September 7 and 11, 2009 to see whether they were initiated by public relations or promotions.
  • The study found that nearly 55% of stories analysed were driven by some form of public relations — a media release, a public relations professional or some other form of promotion.
  • The 10 newspapers were the hard-copy editions of The Australian Financial Review, The Advertiser (Adelaide), The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, The Mercury (Hobart), The Australian, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and The West Australian.
  • Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, which topped the week’s study with 70% of stories analysed triggered by public relations. Australian Centre for Independent Journalism student researchers identified media releases behind 44% of The Daily Telegraph’s stories analysed.
  • The least PR driven publication for this week was its competitor The Sydney Morning Herald with only 42% PR driven stories. Melbourne, the only other Australian city to have two metropolitan newspapers, followed a similar pattern: stories analysed in The Age were 47% public relations driven compared to 65% of The Herald Sun.
  • In this week, papers owned by News Ltd, which controls more than two-thirds of the Australian metropolitan print media market, were more PR driven than those owned by Fairfax Media.
  • Articles were identified across the Australian print media in which journalists put their by-line on stories that were republished press releases with little or no significant extra journalism work. Of 2203 articles, more than 500 or 24% had no significant extra perspective, source or content added by reporters.
  • News and feature stories were analysed across health, medicine, science, technology, business, politics, rural, arts, entertainment, environment and energy and motoring rounds. Different publications focus more heavily on different rounds so for this reason; we did not have the same number of articles in each round or across each publication.
  • The business and politics rounds had the lowest concentration of PR-driven journalism, with business coverage being half public relations driven (50%) and politics at more than one third at 37%. The lower figures for politics may be because more public relations activity happens behind the scenes through journalists’ relationships with politicians and their advisers and for that reason is harder to identify.
  • The highest levels of PR content were found in the innovation/technology (77%) and police (71%) rounds.
  • Other rounds were health/medicine/science (52%), education (63%), arts/entertainment (61.80%).

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