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Is Journalism’s Loss, PR’s Gain?

It’s no secret that journalism jobs have been in decline for several years now, due to the combined effects of shrinking ad budgets, fading print publications and the advent of digital news.

25 on deadlineA recent Yahoo! Education story went one step further by naming reporter or correspondent jobs as “nearly extinct,” while PR specialist jobs continue to grow across nearly all industries.

Sadly, government statistics bear this out. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that journalism jobs have dropped by 25 percent since 2000. And, from 2010 to 2020, the BLS expects reporter or correspondent jobs to drop by yet another six percent. By contrast, in the last decade PR jobs have jumped by nearly 63 percent, and are expected to rise another 21 percent in the coming 10 years.

So, what are some of the implications for the future of journalism when there’s this lopsided balance of too many PR flacks pitching stories to too-few journalists?

One striking example of PR people outnumbering journalists at important events was chronicled in 2011, at an investigative hearing for the Deepwater Horizon explosion. New York Times investigative reporter David Barstow noted there were more PR people at the hearing, testifying, than there were reporters in attendance. 

And, where exactly does this lack of balance leave the state of investigative reporting or just reporting that goes beyond using pre-packaged news and PR-supplied facts/figures?

Pro Publica, an organization whose sole mission is to provide investigative journalism in the public interest, examined the phenomenon in an extensive story in 2011 where it concluded that “the balance of power” in media has shifted from news organizations to PR practitioners.

Barstow told Pro Publica that “The muscles of journalism are weakening and the muscles of public relations are bulking up — as if they were on steroids.”

Assuming that this trend continues, what does it mean for the future of journalism?

Tell us in the comments section.

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