Corporate Public Relations: A New Historical Perspective

Corporate Public Relations: A New Historical Perspective

Corporate Public Relations: A New Historical Perspective

Corporate Public Relations: A New Historical Perspective

Excerpt

A decade ago, in an article entitled "The Limits of Progressive Journalism History," Joseph McKerns noted that, "The dominant interpretative approach, or paradigm, to the history of journalism has been the Progressive interpretation . . ." McKerns contended that the Progressive view of linear improvement in American journalism over the years, with a goal of onwards and upwards to liberalism, has been superficial at best. McKerns was accurate in his reporting and in his critique. With others sharing his perspective, useful reinterpretations of journalism history began to emerge.

No such renaissance, though, has occurred in that subset of journalism history known as public relations history. The Progressive interpretation continues to dominate general concepts of public relations development in two ways.

First, all of us who practice or teach in the field are familiar with the common view that American public relations practice has improved sharply since the "press agent" era of the late 19th or early 20th century.

Second, we have all listened to numerous sermonettes about how corporations have better served "the public interest" by spending more time relating to their public (or "publics"), practicing "boundary spanning," developing professional contributions functions, and learning to dicker and deal in Washington.

One problem faced by apologists for bigger and better public relations is that the reputation of public relations seems to be getting worse rather than better. In recent years, public relations practitioners have been regularly labeled "high-paid errand boys and buffers for management," "tools of the top brass," "hucksters," "parrots," "impotent, evasive, egomaniacal and lying."

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