An unstable media landscape has journalists seeking PR positions

NEW YORK: The planned 10% workforce cut at McClatchy Co., owners of Knight Ridder, that was announced last week reinforced an uncertain media landscape that might be driving more reporters and editors to pursue positions in the PR industry.

NEW YORK: The planned 10% workforce cut at McClatchy Co., owners of Knight Ridder, that was announced last week reinforced an uncertain media landscape that might be driving more reporters and editors to pursue positions in the PR industry.

While many journalists ultimately end up in PR, the media industry's troubles are causing some to do so earlier in their careers.

In the greater Atlanta region, journalists seeking PR jobs are becoming so common that Diane Lore, VP of digital media at GCI Group and former Atlanta Journal-Constitution features project editor, helps to administer a "second life club," producing educational e-mails and organizing regular gatherings to inform ex-reporters, editors, and those who are contemplating a career switch, about the opportunities in PR.

A fourth-generation journalist who jokes about "the stages of grief of leaving journalism," Lore said she was encouraged to leave by her father, a newspaper employee for three decades.

"The money is not there, and because of the constant filing for the online presence now, the pressure is so much higher," she said, adding that 50 to 60 people are on the journalist group's e-mail list and about 20 attend meetings. "No one goes into journalism for the money, but you do expect it to be fun. So if you're not having fun and not making money, then why do it?"

Although several agency executives told PRWeek that they have yet to see an exodus of reporters and journalists seeking PR positions, a majority of those interviewed - MS&L, Qorvis, French/West/Vaughan, among many others - have noticed a rise in resumes from journalists in the past year to 18 months.

"Reporters have moved into PR since the dawn of time, I suppose, and I'm sure it's a market-by-market situation," said Jeff Julin, president of MGA Communications, and CEO and chairman of the Public Relations Society of America. "But while the traditional media changes, and as they change their reporting structures and what they are about, there are certainly fewer jobs for reporters, who are saying, 'What do I do next?' And a logical step for a lot of reporters is to look at PR."

Of the former reporters and editors interviewed, including former member of Hearst's Washington bureau, Eric Rosenberg, now Ogilvy VP and senior media relations strategist, nearly all said that staff layoffs, buyouts, or restructurings weighed considerably on their decision to leave journalism. Many former journalists, including Christa Segalini, SAE at Beckerman PR, formerly of New Jersey's Courier News, also cited better pay, steadier hours, and a more attractive career path, as reasons to seek PR jobs.

Will Shanley, an AE at Linhart PR who left his position as a business reporter at The Denver Post last summer, said he found PR more attractive than newspaper journalism when considering his long-term career. He said a number of his former journalist colleagues have also moved onto PR agencies or corporate communications positions in the past six months.

"I think that people are saying to themselves that the newspaper business is still profitable, but looking long-term, [they] want to take some of those skills and transfer them to a sector that might be growing instead of contracting," he said. "There are multiple avenues to make more money and get more responsibility [in PR]. Whereas in the newsroom, you're a reporter and maybe you become an editor, but it's not like they're growing the number of editor positions, for the most part."

"We are starting to see students that would rather study PR [than journalism], because they feel the opportunities will be better for them based on what's happening with print newspapers and other [media], that [journalism] might not be as feasible of a career for them right now," said Monica Roberts, director of career development at Syracuse University's SI Newhouse School of Communications. "I also have a lot of young alumni who have been out [of college] for two to three years who have been switching as well."

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