Jumping From Journalism to PR: The Upside of the Dark Side

Jun 13, 2013

Does working in PR make me a kissing cousin to Darth Vader?

After all, I used to be a reporter – I was one of the hundreds of casualties of the declining fortunes of The Miami Herald.

I know the withering contempt with which some journalists view PR people – and the vitriol they reserve especially for journalists who make the leap to the other side of the story pitch and become PR pros. So my decision to switch career paths wasn’t an easy one.

But what happened at the Herald is taking place in print newsrooms across the nation and the world. And I haven’t seen a more eloquent and heartbreaking illustration of what’s happening to American newspaper reporters than “Final Edition,” the farewell video produced by Colorado’s Rocky Mountain News, which was forced to shut down just short of its 150th anniversary.

It made me cry when it was first uploaded to the Web back in early 2009, and I still had my reporter’s job then. Now, it’s almost unbearable. Watch it. I challenge you to remain unmoved.

This is the reason why so many reporters are choosing to go into PR. We’re in the unique position of having been on the receiving end of countless press releases and pitches. Many of my former Herald colleagues are now doing PR work for both businesses and nonprofits. Some have started PR firms of their own.

So, reading a recent Buffalo News article about TV reporters joining the PR ranks made me think about how annoying it is when I’m told I’ve “gone over to the dark side.” This is not Star Wars and it’s not that simple.

First and foremost, many of us simply reached the point where we needed a little more job stability than newspaper reporting could provide. Because right now most people working in print newsrooms are enduring increased workloads – picking up the slack after all the layoffs and resignations – while having their pay slashed.

And, unless they are star reporters, they’re basically waiting to be laid off. And even veteran star reporters and editors are taking buyouts.

However, there is a Bright Side to joining the so-called Dark Side. And that’s the reporter’s mindset that we bring to the industry. After all, we know what kinds of press releases and pitches make for a good story.

I think the reporter’s mindset will prove a great boon to PR because we’re always looking for a real story, even if there’s a marketing aspect attached to it. And PR is good for us, too, because we’re learning to use our skills in different ways.

And we get to pay the bills.

Dark side? No, I don’t think so. As with everything – including reporting – it’s all a mix of dark and light. I can live with that.

Check out the Buffalo News article here. Then come back and share your thoughts with the ThinkInk team.

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