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Thursday, May 12 • 4:00pm - 4:05pm
Footprints of PR in the News: Investigating Patterns of Text Reuse

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This interdisciplinary project combines methods from computer science and computational linguistics with manual content analysis to address the issue of news media reliance on content supplied by public relations sources - a topic that has been prominent in media studies for many decades.

Studies going back as far as the early 20th century have reported that a considerable percentage of newspaper content had originated as publicity. Such content was never impartial: the use of adverbs and adjectives favoring the client went hand in hand with presenting the story from a client's perspective, thus, in the words of Walter Lippmann (1922), painting a picture “the publicity man” wished the public to see. Recent scholarship has consistently pointed to the same issues, raising concerns over media serving the needs of the PR industry instead of serving the public.

Most of the studies addressing this topic cite evidence of anecdotal nature or fail to demonstrate a relationship between the source and the resulting coverage. This limitation is methodological and is explained by the scope of the required data analysis. To address this limitation, a pilot study was conducted that used computation to collect 6,171 press releases and 48,664 potentially related articles and identify all instances of text reuse. Although the results suggested that the extent of media's reliance on publicity sources has been exaggerated, computational analysis also revealed a striking example of PR influence, which called for further investigation.

This project focuses on computationally exploring the discovered instances of text reuse in terms of language, sentiment, and overall themes, with a particular focus on quotations - a staple of any press release. The results will be available as an online visualization tool enabling the user to interactively explore the data, visualize patterns of text reuse, as well as language patterns in press releases.


Thursday May 12, 2016 4:00pm - 4:05pm
COOR L1-84 975 S Myrtle Ave Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 85281
  • Session Location COOR L1-84

Attendees (6)