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TechCrunch is the latest publication to play the tired narrative that the public relations industry is behind the woes of modern day journalism, GMOs and global warming.

In the latest bullish show from TechCrunch, Alex Wilhelm looks into the camera, laments the state of the journalism and recites these “horrifying” statistics:

  • There are 4.6 PR professionals for every journalist
  • PR professionals make 35 percent more in pay than journalists, a gap that isn’t shrinking.

I suspect Mr. Wilhelm’s crack research skills using Google turned up the Washington Post article, “Why the PR industry is sucking up Pulitzer winners” and the Pew piece, “The growing pay gap between journalism and public relations,” which served up these charts:Reporters-vs -PR-2004-2014 11-15Growing-Income-Gap 11-15I admire journalists and their ability to observe, report and even make sense of complexity. I’ve pointed out that best business storytelling on the planet comes from journalists.

Yet, these qualities can come into question when they cover their own profession.

Let’s start with the fact that PR professionals outnumber journalists by a wide margin. What sinister actions from the PR profession have undermined demand for journalists?

Consider the job growth for the two professions that precedes the Washington Post data, covering 1997 to 2004 (Occupational Employment and Wages data that only goes back to ’97) in the chart below. Reporters-vs -PR-1997-2004 11-15Thanks to the wonders of data visualization, we can see the business of journalism as flat while PR appears to be a growth industry. Could it be that this little thing called the Internet has swung a wrecking ball through the business of journalism while PR has actually benefited from the Internet?

As for the pay disparity, while both professions share some basic skills, they’re distinctively different jobs with the wonders of capitalism placing more value on one over the other. Of course, you can go down the path of judging society with questions like why does a high school English teacher with the oratory skills of Winston Churchill and 20 years of experience make less than an Objective-C app coder?

Maybe I’ll tackle such deep questions in another post.

Maybe.

In the meantime, you can watch the TechCrunch interview here.


Comments

  • Jose Mallabo

    Couldn’t agree with you more, Lou. If this this post was a performance on American Idol, Simon Cowell would boo and call it “self indulgent.” The fact anyone would say anything that is 10 years old has been around a “long time” puts into perspective how short sighted that person is b/c I have shirts older than that and my 24 years in PR and marketing dwarf that and I feel like I’ve “only” been working for 24 short years. I’m just sick of this redux of and the implication that there is some causal relationship between the rise of PR (which I can easily argue is both driven by the Internet and the blending with other traditionally marketing oriented practices — like content marketing). Ironically, TechCrunch is a BLOG! It may be the worlds most important blog but it’s a blog nonetheless born by the drive to compete with traditional print journalism. So, it’s both tired and hypocritical to have him decry or imply that we on as he would say “this side of the fence” (funny, I never see a fence) that the PR profession is somehow responsible for the flatlining of journalism pay. Having worked very closely inside the online classifieds world while at eBay — both doing PR for eBay Inc. and eBay Classifieds Group — if Alex wants to know why the traditional business of journalism has been gutted and his pay sucks he just needs to look at blogs like TechCrunch and online classifieds sites for taking out the biggest chunk of news paper’s revenue. A typical newspaper like the Merc was getting 25% of its revenue from classified ads — so instead of innovate they waited around and had Craigslist eat their lunch. You can replay that model across almost every major regional daily in the U.S.

    Reply
    • Lou Hoffman

      Thanks for the perspective Jose.

      All fair points.

      Just read an article in The Economist that highlighted American dailies lost around $30 billion in ad spending between 2005 and 2014, or 60% of the total. That is a lot of dough.

      Such stats do not foreshadow a happy ending.

      Reply

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