Joe Ciarallo from mediabistro.com featured an interesting question in PR Newser today: What if only PR pros from Massey Energy were reporting on the West Virginia mining disaster? The question came from Bill Sledzik, associate professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Kent State University. It's a critical question, because a) the answer is painfully evident if you watch the video and b) it illuminates a bit of a misconception about the idea that every company is a media company.
"Every company is a media company" means that all companies have, for minimal capital costs, the means of production to engage directly with their communities, be they customers, investors, curious bystanders, prospects, partners. Or, as Tom Foremski put it in SiliconValleyWatcher earlier today
"Every company must become a media company so that it can claim the high ground in its space. Because if it loses that position to a competitor, it is very difficult to dislodge them. Once a company establishes its media leadership in a particular space it has won an important battle."
You get the point.
It emphatically does not mean that journalism as we know it is irrelevant. Content does not equal news. And I personally am a firm believer that investigative journalism is the lifeblood of a democratic society. Is it because I (vaguely) remember Watergate? Maybe. Whatever.
Journalism (or what some may call "old media") will always matter, at least as long as there is a financial model to support it. And of course the web has enabled bloggers, companies--anyone with a computer and a web connection--to add their voice to the mix. It's a new ecosystem.
So what are the implications for companies as these lines continue to converge and blur?
Bottom line: Companies still need the news media, in whatever form it takes. Influence matters and always will--it's human nature. But direct connection with the people who make your business possible is equally important. Don't discount it. It's an opportunity, not a fad.
Disclosure: Joe Ciarallo is a former employee of Horn Group.