That’s a question asked by Bill Sledzik, associate professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Kent State University.

Massey Energy is the owner of the coal mine in West Virginia were 25 miners died this past Monday. The above video from April 2008 shows their CEO, Don Blankenship and his “media relations” tactics. Sledzik is in part responding to an essay from PR blogger Ike Piggot, in which he says future journalists will be operate from within companies and be paid by the company.

Sledzik asks, if PR pros were reporting the news:

Would we have learned about the 100+ safety violations at Upper Big Branch this year alone? Would we know about Massey’s environmental record in strip mining? Would the CEO’s arrogance toward the media have been highlighted? Probably not. But thanks to an independent news media, we’re getting a more balanced story.

We’ve been hearing about the mantra “all companies are now media companies” for years now, and were told by a PR professional just this week: “Companies are creating content and going directly to the consumer. They don’t need the media.”

“So I’m useless?” this PRNewser replied. “No, not you,” the PR pro said, trying to cover their tracks. In the age of social media, are companies becoming content creators? Of course. Does it make sense for them to be creating compelling and valuable content? It depends, but in most cases, yes.

However, as Sledzik notes, when the news comes straight from the company, we’re likely not getting the full story.