Public Relations Vs. Journalism: Bridging The Gap

Drew Casford

Since, seemingly, before the dawn of time there has been a waging war between Journalists and Public Relations professionals. 

As a fresh-out-of-high-school Journalism student, I was young, impressionable and eager to learn. One of the first things I remember about J-School was learning about the evil and often ruthless world of Public Relations spin masters. These masters of deception, they said, would do almost anything to help the image of their company or organization and we must stay away from their persuasive powers.

Having learned this early on, I was concerned when my Journalism professor suggested I look into the field of public relations studies after graduation. Why me? Did I come across as a master manipulator? Did he think I was a bad person? I wanted to spend my time writing about things that mattered, not defending organizations that only cared about making a profit!

Looking back, these exaggerations of the unethical practices of PR professionals make me laugh. During my brief time as a journalist I dreaded speaking to PR representatives. There was always a wall of well planned, calculated messaging that I was unable to break down. But this wall didn’t mean PR professionals were evil. The strategy behind their messages does not make the messages themselves dishonest or wrong. Now, as a Public Relations student, I can see clearly howmuch Journalists and PR professionals need each other.

More than ever, we see these two professions as almost interchangeable. Whether it is a PR professional doing freelance journalism on the side or vice versa, understanding one side can only help to understand the other. The two are no longer mutually exclusive.

Despite the perceived differences between PR professionals and journalists, it is easy to draw on parallels that exist between the two. Both professions require knowledge of the media industry, and the ability to maintain relations and contacts,to write clearly, and to tell stories which engage the public and clients.

In today’s world of constant communication, understanding the worlds of both Journalists and PR professionals is critical to effectively communicate. Bridging the gap between the two and ending the communications war would help them both sides to grow and evolve. At the end of the day, the most effective communication professionals are able to deliver content to a wide range of publics across many different forms of media, which directly help shape the world we live in.