Growing Influence of University PR on Science News Coverage? A Longitudinal Automated Content Analysis of University Media Releases and Newspaper Coverage in Switzerland, 2003‒2017
Universities have expanded their public relation (PR) departments in recent years. At the same time, news media have had to cope with reduced resources. This has led scholars to assume a growing influence of university PR on a weakened journalism. However, research on this phenomenon is scarce, and longitudinal research is missing entirely. The study at hand looks at the influence of university PR on science journalism in Switzerland by measuring the effects of media releases on media coverage. It uses large-scale, automated text comparisons combined with manual content analyses. The results show that an increasing amount of media coverage is based on media releases, and that the tone of this portion of media coverage is significantly more positive toward the university. Overall, our findings suggest an increasing influence of university PR on (science) journalism.