Interestingly, I read an article recently that said the ABC show Media Watch would be concentrating more on PR spin next year. Someone must have been reading Bob Burton’s book, Inside Spin. In fact, the last few pages of the book give a few tips to journalists on what kind of stories they should be pursuing.
The title is pretty self-explanatory. The book takes you behind the scenes of various PR campaigns, only the tip of the ice berg we are told. It seems there is no industry that does not employ PR practitioners nowadays, whether it be drug companies, food companies, tobacco companies. The list is endless. Plus government also employs lots of PR people. Shows like channel seven’s Border Control get final approval from the government.
The take away from this book is the realisation that so much language that is out there in the media is pure PR concoction. Sure we all flippantly say, yeah, we know how things work in the media, and we know when we’re having the wool pulled over our eyes. However, when you have it all pulled apart and you can see for yourself where the sound-bites and slogans are coming from, it’s quite scary. I’m sure that the modern phenomenon of PR would fascinate and appal George Orwell, who took a keen interest in language.
I must admit to finding bits of this book quite dull, hence I guess the short review. There are long sections where you have to follow long trails of who said and did what, etc. etc. But that’s just me with my poor concentration span. Other readers may find it more riveting.
Having said that, I hope that more attention is paid to exposing where our so-called ‘information’ is coming from, so we can sift the wheat from the chaff. As Bob Burton says, it is important in a well functioning democracy that PR campaigns be exposed for what they are.
At the moment the industry is rife with secrecy. PR practitioners like to keep things low key. Any enterprising journalist looking for inspiration and ideas for stories would be well served by picking up a copy of this short, pithy book.
Bob Burton works as a freelance journalist and the editor of sourcewatch.org.