Public relations, legitimacy, and media access

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Pamela J. Shoemaker


Public relations, Legitimacy, Media access, Stem cell research, Cloning

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication | Public Relations and Advertising | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This study examines how media access of a given source (organization) reflects two sets of influences--its public relations expertise and its more or less enduring legitimacy standing in the scale of journalists' perceptions. A context of stem cell and the cloning debate is used to test the relationships and ultimately to build a theory. This study employs three data collection processes. The first is a survey of organizations to determine their public relations expertise. The second part involves a survey of newspaper and newsmagazine journalists to uncover their assessment of the relative legitimacy of those organizations. The third part of this study is a content analysis of newspapers and newsmagazines to assess the media access of those same organizations. Results show that the legitimacy of sources perceived by journalists has an impact on the regularity and valence of those sources' media coverage, whereas public relations expertise of sources does not have a direct impact on any of the media access indicators. Public relations expertise (knowledge aspect), however, shows some impact on legitimacy (attitude aspect) of sources as perceived by journalists. Therefore, results indicate that legitimacy operates as an intervening variable between public relations expertise and media access of sources. Additionally, results show institutional sources receive more and regular news coverage than non-institutional sources.


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