In public relations, you make more money, but you have to put your neck on the line. In journalism, you get to hold the sword. But you definitely drive the worse car.
After our discussion on journalists’ pet peeves about PR pros, we had a reader reach out to us. They currently work in PR but spent 15 years in journalism. They wanted to share their own experiences working in both fields, but for professional reasons, were concerned about doing so publicly. So here is their tale — told anonymously.
My first inkling that there was a rift between PR and journalism occurred when I got a journalism degree with a specialty in public relations.
Being young and ambitious but also saddled with a desire to actually make some money during my career, I thought perhaps PR was a viable way to keep writing, which was the thing that came easy to me, and not be financially stressed. My dad was a print journalist during his entire professional career, starting in sports and ending in news, and I saw that even after 30 years in the business, he didn’t make jack squat — even as a respected print guy.
Now, I didn’t grow up in a big city, so that does have something to do with salary. But even as I’ve gone to big metro areas, I’ve learned that print folks do hard work for not much coin.
I did figure out one major difference between these two intertwined professions in college — in public relations, you make more money, but you have to put your neck on the line. In journalism, you get to hold the sword. But you definitely drive the worse car.
I went to visit my dad in the newsroom where he worked after my college graduation. The journalists who I’d known all my life were vicious in their reviews of my choice — public relations sucks. It’s not a real profession — it’s professional lying. Spin, calculate, change by degrees the story so it reflects well on the client while obscuring the truth.
Deflated, I changed gears and made applications to graduate schools. I got a master’s in journalism two years later and went into the field, but it wasn’t easy. At the time, in the early 1990s, I was making a fairly good little living as a bartender at a popular spot in Columbus, Ohio.
My first journalism job meant I went from making 30K to 12K a year. I cursed my dad’s friends as I combed through police reports on my cub beat covering cops and city hall in a rundown suburb. Really? I’m writing a story about two guys who had a fist fight in the front yard because one neighbor kept throwing chicken fat trimmings out his kitchen window onto the roof of his neighbor’s shed? For 12,000 dollars a year?
I had various journalism jobs for the next 15 years or so.
One day, while working as an independent journalist from a home office, I got a call from an old newsroom friend who’d made the jump from journalism to PR years before I did. She asked me to come in and interview for a job doing media relations. I interviewed and got the job, jumping off the journalism bus at a time when Craig’s List was killing the lifeblood of all newspapers — the classified ads.
I heard jokes about going to the “dark side” from every journalist I knew, even though I’d chosen to work for a place that’s well-respected and wasn’t a “mercenary” PR/marketing firm.
I soon learned that journalism and PR, in actual practice, are two sides of the same coin. My 15 years in journalism trained me for PR.
What do you think? Are journalism and public relations “two sides of the same coin”?
Image courtesy of Flickr user MoneyBlogNewz.