Poacher turned game-keeper

Is it just me or are more journalists than ever taking the age-old route of moving from journalism and into the realms of media and public relations?

In recent months there appears to have been more headlines in the PR industry news about senior media execs and middle-ranking journalists either being head-hunted or just simply moving into the industry than I have seen for some time. I know it’s not new. I’m a journalist-turned-PR. I took the usual route of spending a decade in journalism and deciding that I wanted, or rather needed, a new challenge and the world or PR and marketing beckoned. But I’m beginning to wonder if the reasons for such career changes are for different reasons now.

Much of the media, particularly print, failed to see the radical changes that online and social media was going to force on them over the past five years. Many were, and still remain, stuck in no-mans land where they feel compelled to stick to the printed medium at the expense of their online presence. Others have grasped the new mediums and adjusted their content to complement the different channels and audiences – some to greater success than others. There’s no doubt that the industry will face further changes over the next five years which nobody can predict.

At the back of all this is the journalist. When I entered journalism at 16 it was all about print. The web wasn’t something widely available in 1989. Today, the new generation of wanna-be journalists have been brought up on technology such as mobile phones, the internet, social media and e-mail. Their news judgement is based on the now and not a deadline for 8pm next Thursday when the weekly paper goes to print. However, even they have been caught-out by the changes affecting the industry. Cut-backs, the need to be adaptable and accept that you have to be able to write articles, produce an online video bulletin and even take photos is common-place. Something that the unions would have been up in arms over just 10 years ago.

As a result, many want to be at the other end of the spectrum, producing and selling news to journalists through media relations (and the wider PR tools). But is this their choice or is it down to the potential career issues affecting the media industry. Where will journalism be in 10 years. We’ll always need news and that content will need to come from somewhere. “Citizen journalists” are cited as being the new media suppliers. I don’t agree. They are simply a source, just as the village correspondent was/is to a weekly newspaper. They are an important part of the process though. But you’ll still need good writers who understand law and the do’s and don’ts and can provide a balanced and objective piece of editorial.

More to the point, who will the media relations and PR people “sell” their wares to if there aren’t any journalists? It won’t just be bloggers and social media “influencers.” We still need people to cast a critical eye over our stories, products and services. Yes, I did just say that. Any media release is there to be questioned. You have to accept that. But as a reader and consumer, I still hope someone will be there to question and investigate. Don’t you?

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