PR Week has just reported that more and more journalists are moving into PR positions. They referenced the recent 10% workforce cut at McClatchy Co. (owners of Knight Ridder) as evidence that change is not just coming, it has arrived.
These cuts are certainly not the first we’ve seen. As we discussed in February, the steady decline in traditional media jobs is directly tied to an increase in PR jobs. (According to Ad Age, “marketing consultancies over the past year added 14,500 jobs -up 10.8%- nearly matching staff cuts at major newspapers down 16,900.”)
This shift is largely credited to the impact of new media on traditional journalism.
PR Week talked to Jeff Julin, CEO and chairman of the Public Relations Society of America, who acknowledge that, “Reporters have moved into PR since the dawn of time, I suppose, and I’m sure it’s a market-by-market situation.”
However, Julin was quick to point to web 2.0 for the recent mass-moves, “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.”
Interestingly, it’s not just reporters who are crossing to the “dark side,” students are opting to study PR over journalism as well, which I can tell you was not the case when I attended OU. Most students had no idea what PR even was at that time.
“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.
Of course, I welcome eager young minds to my field. You all know I believe there has never been a better time to do what we do. But, I can’t help but think about how this will impact journalism in general. The thing is, new media doesn’t have to be the end of traditional media. Radio didn’t end print news. Video changed the radio star, sure, but didn’t kill it.
In his book, SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World, Charlie Beckett, the founding director of POLIS, the London School of Economics based think tank about journalism and society, says, “Networked journalism will save the industry and the world. Journalists need to use all the latest collaborative and open-source tools of the Web 2.0 revolution – from blogs, wikis and social networks to the virtual republic of Second Life – to make their work more relevant and accessible to an engaged public.”
Once again, technology changes everything. It will be interesting to see how traditional journalists change with it and how this new crop of PR grads will play the game. Who knows, traditional journalism may not just morph into blog-form, it may become something bigger, grander, more personal. As Beckett says, “In the past journalists have proven themselves to be very adept at using new technology as it comes along. The telegram, telephone, film, video, mobiles, PCs were adopted quickly and exploited cleverly. So why is Online different?”