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Journalism versus PR: What’s more rewarding?

21st November 2014


What's more rewarding, do you suppose? Being a journalist and developing a story that ends up as a page lead in your publication, or being a PR and developing a story that ends up as a page lead in someone else's publication?

The answer, inevitably, is that it depends.

Moving from journalism into PR, as I and so many others have done over the years, can present some real challenges, not least of which is the perception that journalism is objective and PR is subjective.

Sure, one can argue that journalism should be objective but, in the real world, it's definitely not always the case. There's a general election coming over the horizon and, among national titles in print and online, we are going to be treated to case studies in subjectivity among journalists and their editors.

That area where journalism morphs into opinion can be infuriating if you disagree with the opinion in question, but it can also produce memorable results: In 1992, The Sun's "If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights" may have been a bit wordy but it went down in history.

But what about the other side? If PR is inevitably subjective – and that is a fair starting point for any PR project – does that mean it cannot produce any content of worth to a “real” journalist?

Actually, the answer to that is a resounding No. For example, many of our clients have access to the sort of data that ooze both hard and soft stories, if you know what you're looking for: Where's the cheapest place to buy fuel? Which part of the country drinks the most fizzy wine? 

The starting point for working on such a story is that it gets the client's name out there. But the story itself can be completely objective, and newsworthy as well.

As a former editor, I like to treat clients as good contacts, albeit contacts that are paying for the privilege. The better the stories they help me write, the better the coverage that results.

And so back to the question I posed in the opening paragraph. What's more rewarding?

Well, if you like seeing your name in a story byline, PR may not be ideal. But getting a hard news story finished and published is still a buzz.

There are a couple of issues that affect former editors more than those journalists who simply had to endure working for editors.

First, I can no longer fall back on that tattered and abused phrase “The editor’s decision is final“.

As a direct result of this, people have the temerity to change my headlines. Even the good ones.

And I am supposed to stick to other people’s deadlines. Supposed to. This article was submitted a full week after deadline.

Doesn’t matter if it’s PR or journalism, some things never change. The story is still the most important thing … even if it arrives late.



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