Seventy percent of Czech journalists believe the main negative impact on media quality is the low level of expertise among reporters, according to new research produced by Donath Business & Media, a leading Czech public relations firm. In addition, the low ethical standards of journalists were mentioned by 60 percent of the respondents.

By contrast, smaller numbers cited external factors such as pressure from advertisers (67 percent), senior editors (64 percent) or media owners (59 percent). And journalists perceive pressure from politicians and government officials as less worrying than pressure from businesses.

The 566 journalists responding to the surey report that their work is made more difficult by financial pressures (75 percent) or because of their own low level of expertise (77 percent) or poor ethical standards in journalism (67 percent) much more than it suffers from pressure from either public relations agencies (49 percent) or advertisers (46 percent).

While decrying low ethical standards in the journalistic profession, 42 percent of the journalists flatly declined to accept any gifts from PR people or the companies they represent. The matter is more complicated for the others: a slight majority replied that their reaction depends on the value of the gift, the circumstances of the donation and the reason behind it.

Seventy-one percent say their editorial office has adopted rules of approach to “motivational” offers from companies or PR agencies.

According to the respondents, the most frequent providers of gifts are firms in the tourist industry, followed by pharmaceutical and telecommunications companies, makers of branded consumer goods, banks and insurance companies; automotive and IT companies are a little less generous. Government institutions are at the other end of the spectrum.

Asked about the least ethical practices of PR agencies, most cited the request to send a story or report for pre-print approval (64 percent), followed by phone queries about whether and when the reporter will publish (54 percent), while a mere 30 percent considered offers of gifts as the least ethical practice.