Journalists serve as watchdogs to inform people about their government activities. They usually do it through direct observation and access to public records, but talking to the people in government—either elected officials, agency employees or public information officers—is another significant way for journalists to gather information. Their success often depends on the willingness of officials to be forthcoming with information.
The authors hypothesized PIO controls of journalists would be strongest at the federal level, compared to those at the local government level.
Carolyn S. Carlson, associate professor in the School of Communication and Media at Kennesaw State University, and David Cuillier, director and associate professor of the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona, conducted three national exploratory surveys: the first one with reporters who cover only federal government agencies; a second survey with journalists who cover a variety of government agencies at local, state and federal levels; and the third survey focused on PIOs working for different government agencies, including local, state and federal organizations, to compare their attitudes toward press control.
The researchers found that journalists who cover federal government expressed more frustration with PIO control than did journalists who cover local agencies, and a majority of all journalists reported control tactics becoming more prevalent and inhibiting. Also, journalists who worked at larger news organizations expressed greater frustration, perhaps because they are more likely to cover federal agencies for regional issues than are reporters at small community news organizations.
The study also found PIOs at federal agencies are more likely to express more restrictive press policies than are PIOs at state or local agencies. And, younger PIOs tend to value greater controls over journalists than do older and more experienced PIOs.
To read the full text of the study: http://bit.ly/2y1FyrE
Carlson, C. S., & Cuillier, D. (2017). Public information officers exert increasing controls. Newspaper Research Journal, 38(2), 198-214.