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Journalism is changing, and so is PR

The media in Canada is in the midst of a monumental shift. Journalists and broadcasters have watched countless outlets across the country change, merge, get sold, or shut down altogether. The public relations industry has watched these developments just as closely, with the knowledge that in many ways their fate as an industry relies on the health of the media in general.

Journalism and public relations have always been deeply intertwined. The relationship between PR professionals and journalists historically has been more a case of “Us vs. Them” rather than a partnership (think of the standard “no comment” reply to an inquiry). But as the state of the media changes, so too does this relationship. Gradually it has grown from adversarial to more mutually beneficial.

There can be no doubt that the media industry is at a crossroads at the moment. As print journalism goes digital and budgets get tighter, newsrooms are shrinking, deadlines are getting shorter, and there is an unparalleled demand for content.

The media in Canada has been struggling to find the right equation for providing their customers what they want for a price they’re willing to pay, while still managing to make a profit. Online ads cost a fraction of their print counterparts, making it harder and harder for media outlets to earn revenue the further they shift towards digital.

The cruel irony of this is, the very thing they need to do to keep their readership is the same thing making it harder for them to earn enough money to stay operational.

These shifts in the greater media landscape have inevitably had an enormous impact on the day to day workings of the modern newsroom. The reality is, the burden of this shift is placed largely on the shoulders of the individual journalist.

Cost-cutting and layoffs paired with the higher demand for quick, on-the-go news updates, means pressure falls on a shrinking number of journalists to produce more content on a much tighter timeline than before, with much less job security. There is still a story quota, just fewer people to meet it.

Journalists have always, and will always, rely on a strong lineup of trusted sources. Those sources can be great contacts for filling out a story and adding interesting insights to a piece, but now more than ever, they can play an active role in bringing stories to the journalists.

Public relations professionals have been providing the bridge between journalists and their sources for a long time, and now increasingly are not only connecting journalists and sources, but more importantly, journalists and stories.

Journalists have started to rely more heavily on the public relations industry for generating story ideas. The once dreaded “PR pitch” is no longer met with rolled eyes and a quick thanks-but-no-thanks, but now plays a vital role in the day to day lives of journalists besides filling up their inbox. The PR industry has essentially taken on some of the burden of story idea generation.

This points to an important factor in the growing partnership between journalism and PR, mainly that as journalism shifts and changes to meet the new requirements imposed on it, the public relations industry has changed and adapted with it. As this transition progresses, the line between the two industries will continue to blur.

In fact moving from one industry to the other, which once would have been met with talks of “going to the dark side,” is much more common now than ever before as the two become increasingly complimentary.

It’s possible that over the years the two industries, which have always been two sides of the same coin, have developed an understanding, and further, an appreciation of the value that each can provide the other. Or perhaps together they have come to the conclusion that like their past, their futures are just as intertwined.

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