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Old media dog turns new media trick

By Richard Stanton - posted Friday, 21 October 2011

I teach media relations at the University of Sydney. It's a tough gig. For journalism and media undergraduates I have to try to conceptualise the value in understanding how public relations strategies - and more narrowly media relations strategies - work so that when they become journalists they will grasp the significance of what's being done to them by spin doctors from the 'dark side'.

They don't immerse themselves, nor immediately get the three main elements - media relationship building, stakeholder management and framing. It's a painful process partly because they believe that there are sub-surface forces influencing their ideological thoughts and persuading them to do unethical things.

So it has been interesting to share with them the recent News Limited media relations case study - tangible evidence that public relations and the media are tied inexorably and that from such relationship-building there may be positive outcomes.


News Limited and its mainstream newspapers, The Australian, The Herald Sun and the Daily Telegraph are allegedly responsible for igniting the federal government media inquiry which is "looking at various aspects of the media and media regulation" and whose terms of reference include investment [ ] in quality journalism. It also questions whether "standards of conduct or codes of practice that apply to the traditional print media also apply to the online media".

For some time News has been investigating how it might 'migrate' its profitable print media to profitable online and digital platforms. Migration is a word also used, I suspect without irony, by the federal government in its media inquiry terms of reference.

Most media companies acknowledge the old school print/advertising model has not translated well to digital platforms. This model requires at least 80% of newspaper space to be filled with advertising to offset the 'cost' of editorial.

I was once shocked and amazed by the action of the manager of the newspaper I was working for as a reporter, who, on deadline, breezed into the editor's office flourishing what he called a new page 3 for the following week – an ad rep had sold late space that without question took the place of a nice story. The editor made a piece of theatre by shouting and ranting but the deed was done.

Rather than wait for the media inquiry to prescribe policy that may not suit its proposed new business shift towards digital subscriptions for its products, News has been proactive.

On Wednesday October 19 it launched a blog entitled The Future of Journalism.


The success of the action and indeed the future of journalism is not in doubt. I subscribe to the belief, based partly on the quality of journalism and public relations students churning through the universities, that journalism in Australia has a bold future no matter what the outcome of the inquiry.

What is interesting here is the media relationships and stakeholder management strategy that News employed in the lead up to the launch of the blog.

It's no secret that 'new' media bloggers and old school media organisations don't generally see eye to eye on issues of content and delivery.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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All articles by Richard Stanton

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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