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عنوان فارسی مقاله

تصویر از فلک دولت : توصیفاتی فیلمی از روابط عمومی در مدیریت عمومی

کد مقاله سال انتشار مقاله انگلیسی ترجمه فارسی تعداد کلمات
8644 2001 19 صفحه PDF سفارش دهید محاسبه نشده
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عنوان انگلیسی
The image of the government flack: movie depictions of public relations in public administration
منبع

Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)

Journal : Public Relations Review, Volume 27, Issue 3, Autumn 2001, Pages 297–315

کلمات کلیدی
- فلک دولت - توصیفاتی فیلمی روابط عمومی - مدیریت عمومی
پیش نمایش مقاله
پیش نمایش مقاله تصویر از فلک دولت : توصیفاتی فیلمی از روابط عمومی در مدیریت عمومی

چکیده انگلیسی

Notwithstanding the ubiquity of public relations in contemporary society, little attention has been devoted by researchers to its image in popular culture, especially the nearly-universal mass entertainment medium of film. This article reviews the screen image of the public relations professional in public administration. Of twenty flack flicks, several attributes were consistent in most of them. The characters were almost all men, they worked for the federal government and especially in the military, they primarily conducted media relations and were disproportionately present in movies made in the 1990s rather than earlier decades. Other characteristics showed greater bipolarity. In about half the movies, the government public relations officer was a comic figure, a serious character in the other half. Finally, he was as often the good guy to be cheered by the audience as a bad guy to be jeered.

مقدمه انگلیسی

American popular culture has a long tradition of viewing government bureaucracies negatively [1]. Gates and Hill noted that “the popular media is often filled with complaints that the bureaucracy is out of control [2].” A recent review of depictions of government on television noted “that television has been critical of government from its earliest days as a medium of mass entertainment… We also found a long-term trend toward more negative portrayals of both government institutions and the people who staff them [3].” Holzer and Slater concluded that movies “have reinforced the public’s long-standing, poor image of government [4].” A survey of public views about federal agencies reflected “the generally unfavorable feelings people have about government as a whole” even while they give positive ratings to a few specific agencies [5]. Even the Phantom Menace, the fourth episode of the Star Wars movie series, invoked the popular negative stereotype of bureaucrats as a simple and easily understood plot device [6]. (Note on style: References to movies are in italics.) Similarly, public relations has had a negative image in popular culture of manipulation, artificiality and puffery [7]. Reporters are often the conveyors and reinforcers of this negative viewpoint [8]. Reporters often refer to PR professionals –whether those working in the public or private sectors – as ‘flacks [9].’ According to the New York Times, the term “may be the most derisive printable word that journalists use to describe public relations people [10].” In 1978, Safire defined a flack as a “paid proponent, with its pejorative and sometimes madcap connotation [11].” The word continues its vitality to the present time, with frequent uses in daily journalism [12], magazines [13], books [14] and professional journals [15]. This negativity extends beyond the use of the term of flack. Regarding the public sector, Hess described the carping tone used by journalists to criticize what they view as the persistent incompetence of government press officers [16]. Similarly, a Washington Post reporter telegraphed his negative opinion of the White House press staff by titling his book ‘Spin Cycle [17].’ If so, then what is the image of the government public relations professional? Are they burdened by a doubly negative image? Most government agencies have a spokesperson or public information officer. Larger agencies have public relations offices that are staffed by many employees. These civil servants encompass in their jobs two negative images held by popular culture: the bureaucrat and the PR professional. Does popular culture share journalists’ negative view of the public relations staffer in a government agency? Or, is the derogatory image limited to reporters, generated by their particular professional ethos and frequent interaction with these staffers? This article reviews the screen image of government public relations professionals. It seeks to identify how public information officers have been depicted in motion pictures. Any generalizations or trends that emerge from these flack flicks can help provide detail on popular views regarding these PR bureaucrats. Are government flacks viewed negatively by society in general or is there a difference between the negative image held by the news media and the image held by popular culture? Since popular culture tends to lack nuance and texture, the plain question is: are government flacks good guys or bad guys? When they appear on the movie screen, does the audience have a stereotypical expectation of cheering or jeering? There have been book-length studies of movies about reporters and the media [18]. However, there has been little comprehensive and systematic exploration of what has been called the ‘journalist in residence,’ that is, the public relations professional [19]. Keenan explored the screen image of public relations in network television coverage [20] and Miller studied trends in the depiction of public relations in a combination of both film and fiction between 1930 to 1995 [21]. Zaiukas identified the public relations aspects of the book and movie Wizard of Oz[22]. Tavcar described 17 films with a major PR theme or character [23]. He noted the negativity of some of the depictions of public relations and, therefore, they “shouldn’t be watched after a tough day in the PR trenches [24].” Based on the subject matter indices complied by the American Film Institute, there have been many American movies that include public relations professionals, press agents and publicists [25]. In some of these movies the PR expert is self-employed or works for a public relations agency. Examples include The Barefoot Contessa (released in 1954, played by Edmond O’Brien who won an Oscar for this role), Sweet Smell of Success (released in 1957, played by Tony Curtis), Days of Wine and Roses (released in 1962, played by Jack Lemmon who was nominated for an Oscar for this role) and Valentine’s Day (released in 1998, made for TV, played by Eleanor Davis). In other PR-related movies, the public relations professional works in the private sector as an employee of a business or corporation. Examples of such employers include a movie studio in Singing in the Rain (released in 1952, played by King Donovan), a conglomerate in The Electric Horseman (released in 1979), a nuclear power plant in The China Syndrome (released in 1979, played by James Hampton) and a car company in Heart Like a Wheel (released in 1983, played by Jennifer Roven). In many of these movies, the negative depiction of the private-sector public relations professional is explicit and consistent. For example, in Sweet Smell of Success, PR man Tony Curtis says, “I’m nice to people when it pays to be nice [26]!” In The Barefoot Contessa, film director Humphrey Bogart archly observes that “A press agent is many things, most of them punishable by law [27].” Days of Wine and Roses includes a lead character who describes public relations in a positive, professional and comprehensive way: “My job is supposed to be to advise people how to relate to the public. How to make the good my client does known, how to help him find ways to do good and benefit others as well as himself [28].” He refers admiringly to a colleague who quit rather than violate his professional integrity [29]. However, the public relations professional in the movie finds himself being treated either as merely a press agent or worse, “a garbage man, the eunuch of a harem [30].” As with movies about reporters, there have also been extensive studies of screen depictions of politicians [31]. However, there have not been comparable overviews of politicians’ public relations staff. Yet, for example, movies about presidents often include public relations staff. Some examples include the President’s press secretary in First Family (released in 1980, played by Richard Benjamin), The Survivalist (released in 1987, played by J. Kenneth Campbell), The American President (released in 1995, played by Anna Deavere Smith), Nixon (released in 1995, Ron Ziegler played by David Paymer), Air Force One (released in 1997, played by Donna Bullock; Assistant Press Secretary played by Michael Monks), Traffic (released in 2000, by Kymberly S. Newberry) and Thirteen Days (released in 2000, Pierre Salinger played by Kelly Connell). Other roles connected to the presidency have included the Deputy Director of Communications in All the President’s Men (released in 1976, actor playing Ken Clawson unidentified in credits, voice only) and the First Lady’s press secretary in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (released in 1981, made for TV, played by Jennifer Rhodes). Some examples of government public relations officers working for elected officials at the municipal level include a mayor’s press secretary in One Fine Day (released in 1996, played by Michael Genet), in Any Given Sunday (released in 1999, played by Antares Davis) and in Not for Publication (released in 1984, played by Randy Moore). Other screen depictions of American public relations professionals in politics include the PR man for a candidate for US Senate in March in Windy City (released in 1998, made for TV, played by Robert Mohler) and the New York-based public relations consultant to a Latin American dictator in Under Fire (released in 1983, played by Richard Masur). Examples from politics outside the US include the Soviet press secretary in The Package (released in 1989, played by Nathan Davis) and the spokesman for the British Prime Minister in the long-running British TV series Drop Dead Monkey (aired 1990–98, played by Jon Cartwright). However, the public sector consists of more than elections, politicians and campaigns. It also includes public administration, the large apparatus of permanent government agencies that implement the laws and policies enacted by elected officials. Similar to previously mentioned studies of movie depictions of reporters and of politicians, there has been some attention to the depiction of public administration in film [32]. Yet, as with movies about PR aides to politicians, there has been no comprehensive effort to review how popular culture depicts public administration’s public relations experts. This may be due to the narrowness of the category and of the usually minor role these PR experts play in each movie. Notwithstanding these limitations, this exploration is an effort to identify and analyze the film depictions of the public relations expert in public administration, that is, the nonelected portion of government that consists of large administrative agencies delivering public goods and services. As a research methodology to identify these movies, an initial search was undertaken of general reference sources about motion pictures. While the subject index in the American Film Institute (AFI) directories includes public relations, some of the other standard film reference works do not include it or any related subjects as a separate category, let alone for public relations in public administration [33]. Even volumes dedicated exclusively to listing movies by themes and settings or by subjects of major quotations do not contain relevant categories for this focus [34]. This pattern is most likely because in movie casts, the public relations professional tends to be a minor character, rather than a leading one. Therefore, the movie would not be listed in a separate subject category of public relations. Two reference sources were most helpful for this research. First, AFI has published directories of all American movies produced from 1911 to 1940 and from 1961 to 1970 [35]. (A volume covering 1951 to 1960 had not yet been published as of early 2001.) Second, on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), researchers can search for specific words in the plot summaries and cast titles for about 250,000 movies and television programs [36]. Films were sought that contained depictions of government public relations professionals in one of two categories. The first grouping consists of films that include a character with a speaking part who works in PR for a public sector agency. The second category includes films that refer to, or in some other way depict, a government public relations professional without that character having a speaking part or perhaps even being seen. To permit comparisons between mutually exclusive sets of movies, this analysis does not include any of the PR movies already reviewed by Miller [37]. Based on these guidelines, twenty movies have been identified that include a government agency PR expert. The summary below presents basic information about these movies and details how each depicts the public sector public relations specialist. Every effort was made to rely on primary sources, either by viewing the film or examining its published screenplay. In a small number of instances, a viewable copy was not locatable. In those cases, information is based on authoritative sources and plot summaries, such as AFI, IMDb or Matlin [38]. 2. Movies with public relations professionals in government agencies 2.1. See Here, Private Hargrove (released in 1944). Directed by Wesley Ruggles. Screenplay by Harry Kurnitz. Original literary source: book by Marion Hargrove [39]. Marion Hargrove (Robert Walker) and Thomas Mulvehill (Keenan Wynn) work in an Army camp’s public relations office as reporters for the camp’s newspaper. Genre: comedy. Country: US. Plot relating to government public relations staff: The movie is about the high jinks of four buddies in the Army. While in basic training during World War II, two of them apply for transfer from their artillery assignment to the camp’s public relations office. At first they are denied the transfer. Later, they receive it and work on the camp’s newspaper as reporters. Yet, when their old artillery unit is ordered to Europe they give up their cushy assignments and return to serve with their other buddies. (The 1945 sequel, What Next, Corporal Hargrove, was solely about their war adventures in the artillery in France, not about their earlier public relations assignment.)

نتیجه گیری انگلیسی

Notwithstanding the ubiquity of public relations in contemporary society, researchers have devoted little attention to its image in popular culture, especially the nearly universal mass entertainment medium of film. While depictions of politicians and journalists in movies have been extensively investigated and commented upon, there has been little comparable study of the public relations professional. This article reviewed the screen image of the public sector public relations professional, in particular those working in government administrative agencies rather than those who work for elected officials. Of the twenty flack flicks, several attributes were consistent in most of them. The characters were almost all men, worked for the federal government and especially in uniformed services, primarily conducted media relations and were disproportionately present in movies made in the 1990s rather than earlier decades. Some other characteristics showed greater variety or bipolarity. In about half the movies, the government public relations officer was a comic or humorous figure, a serious character in the other half. Consistent with actual practice, there was a great variety in the titles of the positions held by these PR specialists. Finally, he was as often the good guy to be cheered by the audience as a bad guy to be jeered. Considering the negative images of both public relations and government bureaucracies in popular culture, it is surprising and edifying to find a modicum of positive depictions of the government spokesperson in movies that include such a role. Future areas of research could include analyses of the screen image of public relations professionals working for politicians and elected officials, as identified at the beginning of this article. Also, a similar analysis could be made of the depictions of communications experts in the nonprofit world, such as the spokesman for the Church of Latter Day Saints in In the Line of Duty: Siege at Marion (released in 1992, made for TV, played by Steve Anderson). Another analysis might compare and contrast the results from this set of movies with the movies in Miller’s set that include a government spokesperson. Also, the author was unable to locate six other films which apparently include a spokesperson for a government agency (listed in chronological order): Countdown at Woomera (released in 1961, UK, made for TV), Countdown to Looking Glass (released in 1984, US, made for TV), Streets of Justice (released in 1985, US, made for TV), Intensive Care (released in 1992, Netherlands), King of Chaos (released in 1998, UK, made for TV) and Sunshine Cops (released in 1999, Hong Kong). An examination of these movies, as well as Miller’s, would extend the credibility of generalizations about the cinematic image of the government flack. The screen image of the private sector public relations professional could be explored in greater depth following up on Miller’s research [68]. For example, are there differences in the depiction of the public relations counsel who is self-employed versus one who is an employee of a large business organization? Similarly, there might be commonalties and differences in the screen image of PR staff in different subcategories of the private sector, such as heavy industry, finance, show business, professional services, transportation, health care and communications.

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