Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Barbara K. Petersen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan A. MacManus, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kelly Page Werder, Ph.D.


public relations, public information officer, media relations, relationship management, interpersonal communication


At a glance, journalists and public relations practitioners appear to have a dysfunctional relationship, despite having many professional similarities. Both groups use comparable skill sets in their jobs, including writing, information gathering, and making decisions based on news values. Both groups often work with each other in their professional positions; journalists look to public relations practitioners for sources and news tips, while public relations practitioners look to journalists to help send organizational messages to publics.

To better understand the issues of trust in this unique working relationship, ten journalists and ten government public information officers from the Tampa Bay, Florida area were interviewed about their perceptions of the integrity, dependability, and competence of their professional counterparts. Using a coorientational lens, themes derived from the comments of both groups were compared for accuracy and agreement.

The results indicated that both journalists and public relations practitioners were slow to generalize positive or negative experiences to other individuals or organizations, and that they mostly understood the professional ethics and motivation of the other occupation. However, once an established trust was broken in a relationship, participants universally described that it could not be regained. By comparing themes between the two groups, the data indicated that there were more issues of true consensus than any other situation. Both journalists and government communicators indicated a mutual respect for their professional counterparts and a shared appreciation for the principle of open government, though the data suggested that the two sides were unaware of this agreement. This exploratory qualitative analysis uncovered several interesting trust-related issues in this unique working relationship, many of which are worthy of additional research and exploration.