From Journalism to PR: The 'Other' Side of the Divide

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Developing trends in journalism have included everything from new ways of news gathering to upgrading to digital news spreading. But beyond the 'traditional' ways of thinking about technological advances in journalism, there is yet another developing trend: journalists are now transitioning into the realm of Public Relations.

This is an interesting, and to some, quite a daring move for journalists who at one time thought of PR work to be 'less worthy' than that of reporting.

Investigative reporter Nick Davies, who is also the author of Flat Earth News, has been studying these recent changes since 2007. Many 'high profile' journalists have been on the move since then, including former BBC technology editor Darren Waters, who is now the managing director Monument PR Worldwide, and Rav Singh, who became the special projects consultant at The Outside Organization.

A career recruitment consultant even said the number of clients she receives who are journalists looking for a career in PR has gone up by '100 per cent, year on year'.

Why the shift?

It's pretty evident that journalism is changing a lot at the moment. Journalism's low pay and demanding working hours have been the cause for reporters to move toward PR. It can also be noted that the print-news industry in general has suffered from the decline in advertisements, increased competition from online sources, and the recession, resulting in reduced budgets for all.

In addition, the image of public relations has changed as well. Once frowned upon, PR has gone from being a bit of a 'second rate' reporting firm to a communications output machine with better pay.

All the more reason for PR firms to take journalists into employment with open arms.

Journalists have what's called 'news sense' -- meaning, they know what their audiences want and tailor their press releases accordingly. Jez Ashberry, a former editor and journalist, says that journalists often make the best PR professionals because of their ability to be resourceful, quick-witted, write well and know what is of interest.

Many firms and agencies are taking advantage of these skills by hiring experienced journalists to write and create compelling material in 'non-traditional' PR ways.

However, there is some danger: journalism is often times 'one dimensional'. Public relations, on the other hand, often requires a wider range of other skills that involve more than just writing.

Public relations agencies have taken it upon themselves to make transitional courses in 'journalism-to-PR' to help their employees make the transition with the hope of breaking some of the 'journalist mindset.'

This shift in professions has not only emphasized a growing trend, but also the wide range of possibilities available for aspiring journalists and communicators.


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