Why Robert Peston is wrong about PR

The world of journalism has changed since I was a cub reporter on local papers more than 20 years ago.

The days of copy takers, of over stocked newsrooms and hot metal presses are long behind us in a digital age where even on a local level, news is on a 24 hour cycle.

Media organisations have had to cut back on staff, which means that there is more of a role for PR consultants to tell their clients' stories to target audiences.

I have a lot of time for the reporting of the BBC's economics editor, Robert Peston, but his comments last week about the increasing power of PR and the dumbing down of journalism is at odds with the media world I know.

Just as his words that the power and relevance of the audience are at odds with reality, so too his comments on the relevance of PR in today's media landscape are somewhat troubling.

Can I call up a friend on a national and ask them to do me a favour and write a story for me, because I need to satisfy the demands of a client? No.

I've been asked on many a pitch how many editors I know who I can guarantee will feature their story.

My answer is always the same. None of them.

No journalist worth their salt - and no one I know, will ever run a story without editorial justification and each and every one of them will put a story through its paces - as will their section sub-editors - before it ever gets close to seeing the light of day.

I have never done what Mr Peston describes as an "unhealthy deal" to ensure I got coverage where it was not justified.

The only time approval has ever been sought was when a journalist did an interview with one of my clients that it sought to run as a first person editorial/Op-Ed, where the tone, language and content had to best reflect the sentiments of the speaker.

What Mr Peston has not understood is that actually, the world has changed to the point where almost every organisation now sees the value of communicating with their audiences, be it through social or traditional media.

In most cases, that means that they employ PR departments or consultants to help them to tell their stories to the audiences that matter most to them: but most chief executives are busy running their organisations rather than dealing with the intricacies of a story that involves them.

Any journalist worth their salt will check check and check again and I've never been told that I am considered the enemy by any of them - and believe me, some of them are quite happy to speak their minds if the mood takes them.

Of course, there are unscrupulous PR consultants just as there are journalists who I have seen file a story before conducting an interview and then try to make whatever quotes they get fit with what they have already written.

The fact is that in this information hungry, ultra-connected news world, journalists and news organisations need public relations consultants as much as we need them as one of the many ways we connect with client audiences.

PR is no more 'the dark side' of communications than every journalist writes what they are told with no wish to think or judge for themselves.

Let's give both professions a bit of credit and show some mutual respect.