“Journalism is printing what somebody else does not want printed – everything else is Public Relations” – George Orwell

Hi all, for today’s post I’ve decided to do something a little different. For one my of my Media Relations modules, we had to evaluate this statement by novelist, journalist and critic George Orwell.


I’m still trying to figure out whether my blog is for PR students, or the PR professional. It just seems silly to write about themes in PR I haven’t learnt about yet. So my plan is to simply start from the bottom and work my way up. Hopefully, my evaluation of this quote will help other first year students to some degree. So here it, my answer to the question in light of all the practical assessments I partook during the module.

“George Orwell’s statement highlights the link between public relations and journalism, which are becoming increasingly intertwined in the 21st century media environment. This Media Relations module has enabled me to gain an insight to how the two are related yet still very different.

It could easily be argued that journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Most media sources such as newspapers are filled with celebrity gossip pages and showbiz columns, merely to satisfy the consumers desire for disposable news. Moloney (2000) argues that “(Journalists) are content to accept ‘newszak’, news designed for a market and delivered in small bits for easy consumption.”[1] Celebrity journalism is now increasingly reliant on social media to produce column inches rather than seeking out stories from scratch.

For my assignment portfolio I followed The Suns Showbiz column editor Dan Wooton during October, and found it interesting to how the most obscure fact about a celebrity could fill up column inches. We as consumers seem to feed off negative news about the current celebrities. “Although merrily by convention rather than dictate, the often compelling nature of bad news does tend to prioritise over good news.”[2] (Starkey, 2006, p.48) The media controls information generated to the public and can choose to either demonise or promote the said figure. Negative news seems to sell, due to its shock factor and our habitual desire to know everything about celebrities.

Everything other than negative news could be considered as public relations due to it being a positive promotion of a product, event or person. Public relations are a branch of marketing concerned with managing public opinion. It is the PR person’s job to highlight the strengths and positives of their client. A feature of my assignment portfolio was developing a newsworthy idea to promote my client The Food and Cultural Organisation (FOA) of the United Nations. In crafting a publicity stunt I was able to experience the thought process that goes in to crafting the perfect message for the consumer. Through looking at different public relations strategies I was able to broaden my understanding of what it takes to create a successful PR campaign. I feel my approach served my clients interest well as my chosen celebrity endorsement linked in nicely with the edible insect theme, Gino Di Campo an I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! winner and resident chef on ITV’s This Morning. I feel I picked the perfect angle to pitch my client’s product, simply using my imitative of what I thought could be successful. When creating my media distribution list I was able to see the importance of building mutually beneficial lasting relationships in public relations, and taking the time to think about why I was making the decisions I made.

Another feature of my portfolio assignment was finding a press release and a news story that had generated from it. It was interesting to see how closely integrated the two fields are, as well as their differences. The relationship between public relations and journalism is often described as love and hate. This is because they are working to different agendas. The PR person aims to boost reputations and create lasting relationships whereas the journalist looks for the controversial story that will sell and make headlines.

Through analysing Balmain x H&M’s press release and Olivia Lidbury’s article for The Telegraph I gained an understanding how what goes in to a press release and how journalists rely on them to produce stories. This therefore suggests Orwell’s statement is incorrect, as not all journalism is text that someone does not want printed. In terms of press releases, I learnt the about the key concepts needed to make a story newsworthy. For example its relevance, celebrity status, entertainment value and lastly will it further the organisations public relations objectives were obvious in the Balmain x H&M press release. In terms of presentation, I enjoyed learning the structure of the press release and the relationship dynamics between the PR person and journalist. This example could be an argument against Orwell’s statement, as journalism is often the focus of a positive action, rather than the negative, especially when the said article is drafted from a press release which aims to promote and sell.

In terms of political journalism, one could look at Jeremy Corbyn and the way he is presented through media outlets. As an electoral hopeful Corbyn aims to be seen as three key attributes: reliable, genuine and trustworthy. However, the newspapers present him as unreliable, shifty and untrustworthy, finding any negative fact from his past to become headline news. I feel it is important to mention Rupert Murdoch and the strength of his political influence. As a member of the Conservative Party, and an owner of 70% of media it is easy to see how perceptions of Corbyn – who he is and what he stands for, can be easily distorted and sold to the general population. The representation of Jeremy Corbyn through newspaper headlines, is a perfect example of journalism and public relations are closely related.

In contrast to George Orwells statement it could be argued that journalism is exactly what people want printed, as well as public relations. The close relationship the two fields share can often be intertwined. For example the basis of journalism is breaking news, what the consumer needs to know. Exceptional events such as the Paris Attacks or the disappearance of Madeline McCann make interesting stories because they are the basis of news, stories people need to know about which are new.

For our second task in creating a faux news story I was able to see delicacy tragic stories had to be treated with. In drafting my own press release and creating my own story I gained an insight into the way PR people must craft the perfect message around sensitive and unnerving subjects. Although I didn’t participate in the presentation itself due to medical reasons I fully participated in the work leading up to it. Something else that became apparent was the difference between celebrity public relations and disposable news in contrast to more serious matters.

To conclude, in light of everything I have learnt of this module, I have to disagree with Orwell’s statement. Although public relations aim is to win understanding and support and influence opinion and behaviour, the basis of journalism is not necessarily just negative news – which other’s don’t want printed. Journalism is a broad range of stories, some positive and some negative. I feel Orwell restricts the possibilities of journalism with his statement. Hardcup (2004) argues that journalism is a form of communication based on asking and answering the questions Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?” [3]

[1] MOLONEY, K. (2000) Rethinking Public Relations. 2nd Ed. London: Routledge.

[2] STARKEY, G. (2006) Balance and Bias in Journalism. London: Palgrave MacMillian

[3] HARDCUP, T. (2004) Journalism Principles and Practice. 3rd Ed. London: Sage Publications


5 thoughts on ““Journalism is printing what somebody else does not want printed – everything else is Public Relations” – George Orwell

  1. George Orwell wrote many interesting things – but I don’t believe this was one of them.

    ‘News is something somebody somewhere doesn’t want printed. All the rest is advertising’ is usually attributed to Lord Northcliffe, the press baron who launched the Daily Mail and who also owned The Times.

    Still, whoever said it – it’s worth discussing.


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