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Eight Reasons Why Lowly Ranked Journalists Should Consider PR

Judging from the response on Twitter and media blogs, journalists are wearing a recent CareerCast survey that ranked newspaper reporter as the fifth-worst job in America like a badge of honor.

Having spent a decade in newsrooms, that doesn’t surprise me. Journalists are a different breed who consider the long hours, stressful deadlines and angry readers part of the price they pay for the sake of the cause. It’s a martyrdom mentality that finds its reward in serving the public interest.

Many journalists feigned insult and gave us lots of reasons – many of them legitimate – why being a reporter is actually the best job ever. Of course, they also quickly pointed out that there are much, much worse jobs out there, including “anything in public relations.” Despite their industry turmoil and uncertain future, reporters always find comfort in the fact that they’re not doing PR. (Public relations executive was ranked No. 70 on the list of the 200 best and worst jobs of 2012, compared to No. 196 for newspaper reporter.)

Well, as someone who came over to the dark side, I’d like to give my noble-minded friends eight reasons why they should consider selling out.

  1. You still get to tell great stories. Sure, you have to abandon objectivity, but that doesn’t mean clients don’t have compelling stories. Discovering and articulating a brand’s story can be every bit as challenging and rewarding as penning that 100-inch masterpiece.
  2. You get to shape the story. It’s like a game of chess trying to anticipate what reporters need and which direction a story will head next. And seeing your pitch turn into a placement is every bit as satisfying as seeing your byline in print.
  3. You get to be an advocate. While you might occasionally have to smile and make the BPs of the world seem like good corporate citizens, quite often you’re helping advance the agendas of reputable companies and organizations with missions you can embrace.
  4. You still get to regularly learn something new. I might not get to dig for mastodon bones like I did when I was a reporter, but public relations does require becoming experts in clients’ industries and products.
  5. You don’t have the emotional baggage. When I left journalism, one of the things I soon realized was how jaded I had become. There were days when I came home emotionally exhausted, perhaps after visiting a mother who just lost her teenage son to a gang war. Like cops, reporters often make light of tragedy as a coping mechanism. The unfortunate result can be a loss of compassion.
  6. You get to be optimistic. This one goes hand in hand with No. 5. Instead of being an eternal pessimist, PR pros get to focus on the positive. Journalists will call that spin, but it’s an overall healthier worldview.
  7. You still have constant deadlines. Let’s face it: Journalists thrive on them. Don’t worry; we still have those. We just don’t have a hole to fill in tomorrow’s paper.
  8. You understand what makes a great story. Developing solid news judgment only comes from experience. So you can help us prevent those awful PR pitches that result in newsroom laughter once you hang up the phone.

There are certainly things I miss about being a newspaper reporter, such as election night and the thrill of chasing breaking news. And I certainly wouldn’t rank it alongside oil rig worker as among the worst gigs out there. But I do have to say that it is nice to move up the list.

Dave Parro is the Director of Communications at Aurora University, where he oversees public relations and editorial strategy. A former reporter and editor with Sun-Times Media, he holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Aurora University. You may follow Dave on Twitter @daveparro.