The study, carried out by postgraduate students in 2010, found that between 11.6% and 21% of newspaper stories across eight major daily publications were mainly or entirely generated by public relations material, and that between 32% and 50% of all stories contained elements of public relations material. The worst offender was the Irish Times (21% of stories comprising all or mainly public relations material) with the Evening Herald scoring best (11.6% comprising all or mainly public relations material).
The other newspapers examined were the Daily Mirror (12%), the Irish Examiner (16%), the Daily Mail (13%) and the Irish Sun (13.6%). All the figures for the Irish Independent are currently unavailable, but the students found that 46% of all stories in the Independent contained public relations material – a figure which is broadly in line with the other newspapers.
I’m not so convinced that qual measures like that tell the whole story of quality journalism, but it points to what the empty desks from Boston to Washington, to London and Belfast indicate: there are less people doing the job than there used to be.
And the job is changing faster than anyone involved in the business (or indeed any of us peering in from the outside) can account for.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty