An Island of Reliability in a Sea of Misinformation? Understanding PR-Journalists Relations in Times of Epistemic Crisis

Aviv Barnoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

With technologies making sources more accessible than ever before, journalists’ prime concern is no longer obtaining data; but rather sorting information out–undermining the traditional role of information subsidies. This study exposes for the first time a unique form of “epistemic subsidies,” suggesting a new explanation for PR-journalists’ paradoxical relations. Using a mix of quantitative and qualitative reconstructions, in which Israeli news reporters from national news outlets accounted for the sources they used (N = 1,147), this paper reaffirms the persistence of the paradox, while shedding new light on it, showing that the relationship is based on reliability rather than trust. Information from PR sources is communicated to journalists in a significantly more reliable way than from non-PR–making reliance much safer. Analyzing the findings with a framework that is based on social epistemology and the intereffication theory, the paper suggests that the epistemically-virtues practices of PR act as “inductions,” which could result from an “adaptation” to journalists’ increasing epistemic needs. Findings also reopen the normative debate about the implication of reliance on PR, indicating that such reliance reduces vulnerability to factually incorrect messages, while not defending journalists from misleading messages or “spins.”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-108
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Public Relations Research
Volume34
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Public relations
  • epistemology
  • intereffication
  • journalism
  • mixed methods
  • subsidies
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

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