The Journalist And The PR Pro: A Broken Marriage?

PAN Media

This post is courtesy of Peter Himler and originally appeared on Forbes.

March 14, 2013

Last week my former Associated Press client Tori Ekstrand invited me to speak at the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After a two–hour snow delay in New York, I finally made my way to the Freedom Forum Center on campus where Tori, now an assistant professor, and a handful of her undergraduate students gathered to hear my point-of-view on the evolution of the communications industries.

In a nutshell, I explained, we’ve entered an age when every company and every individual can be a media outlet with the capacity to create and syndicate content. At the same time, nimble media upstarts with names like Buzzfeed, Politico, Huffington Post, TechCrunch, TMZ, Drudge, and a myriad others have mastered the art of headline histrionics. In so doing, they have siphoned off a growing share of the public’s ever-divided attention spans from legacy media, which today are struggling to retain the influence they historically have enjoyed.

I was surprised to learn from Tori that some 60-70% of the students in UNC’s journalism program are not majoring in journalism at all. Instead, they’re pursuing careers in advertising and public relations, which may be a smart move given the economic challenges the media industry continues to endure, i.e., Maureen Dowd’s column in The New York Times, and the industry’s embrace of new hybrid ad/edit revenue-generating schemes such as “native advertising” and sponsored content.

Separately, I had forgotten that Talking Biz News’ founder Chris Roush was a senior associate dean and the Walter E. Hussman Sr. Distinguished Scholar in Business Journalism at the university. Talking Biz News is a must-read for those working as or with business journalists. Chris invited me to pen a post for the site on “what’s wrong with the relationship between PR people and business journalists.”

Clearly there’s much wrong in this symbiotic relationship, but it doesn’t end with the business/financial news beat. The historical love-hate relationship between journalists and PR professionals has taken a distinct turn toward the latter in recent years and infects nearly every media beat.

Continue reading at Forbes...

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