in 1980 there were .45 PR people and .36 journalists per every 100,000 workers. As of 2008, that number had shifted radically. There are now .90 PR people per 100,000 workers and just .25 journalists.

via Utne Reader.

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  1. In 1980 I hadn’t hear the term “personal computer”, had just spent $3,500.00 for a copy machine and $1,800.00 for a fax machine. I remember thinking “Wow, art directors can send me layouts over the phone!” I spent most of my time making cold calls and schlepping my portfolio.

    In 2011 I spend hours a day on SEO and social media…essentially being a “PR people”. Hmmm….maybe that .90 PR people per 100,000 workers is a bit low….

    John Lund

  2. You also have to factor in the way the FCC is not requiring radio stations to provide news and public affairs … that’s why I’m not doing radio news anymore and turned to PR for awhile…

    and you might be right John Lund!

  3. That’s a rather disturbing statistic.

  4. 1. Much of what journalists did and still do was re-packaging PR. Leaf through your local newspaper some morning and note how much of it, based on your experience, is there because of PR vs. how much is the result of real reporting.

    2. Many of the “new” PR people are former journalists — a process that has been going on for decades.

    3. PR people aren’t just writing press releases, arranging interviews and answering questions. They’re responsible for the company’s (or government agency’s) public facing internet presence. This includes static pages, blogs, podcasts, video (youtube) etc.

  5. The advent of 24-hour cable news and the Internet created a huge, insatiable, news hole to be filled. Instead of hiring more reporters, news organizations began to rely more heavily on spoon-fed news provided by PR people. Then as the economy soured, hard-hit news organizations cut back on staff and relied even more heavily on PR-sourced news. Now things have degraded to a point where many “news” organizations spend very little actual time gathering news — it’s almost exclusively PR-sourced. And the news they do actually cover has to be a guaranteed newsworthy event. So you no longer have reporters going out and uncovering stories, you get mass coverage of often staged news events.

    There has always been a symbiotic relationship between PR and news. What has changed is the volume of what is reported as news is really little more than a rewrite of a press release, or an interview with someone who dropped by the new organizations’ office — usually promoting something. Also disturbing is how standards for balance have eroded. It used to be you could use a press release, or story idea pitched by PR people, as the basis of a news story; but you had to gather other points of view and independently verify the information. Sometimes the final edit of the story turned out very different than the original PR-generated idea.

    The deadline pressure of 24X7 news has also had an impact. The quest to be first has weakened the requirement to be balanced. A lot of what you get now are single-sourced news stories without balance or perspective.

    Blurring the lines between editorial and advertising has also exacerbated the situation. Now news organizations are afraid to upset advertisers and often produce editorial content specifically to generate advertising revenue. The result has been editorial content that is basically fluff.

    I believe the decline in quality content is the reasons so many news organizations have experienced such a stunning economic decline. Sure the Internet, and technology in general, has had a significant impact; but I believe the core reason for the decline is many news organizations ceased producing content people feel is unique and valuable.

    On the flip side, the Internet has created an almost limitless number of potential outlets to place stories, sometimes with little or no editing. Given the competition for eyeballs, you really need an army of PR people to just cover the important bases. I actually think the .90 PR number sounds low. If you combined corporate PR people with agency PR people, who often work in tandem to promote PR-generated news, it would not surprise me if the number was much greater than 1.0.

  6. It make me think of the TV news magazines like 20/20. There is not the same substance that you saw in the 70’s & 80’s. You began to see some drift in the 90;s and now you really don’t get news except when there has been a drive by or something similar.

    I think one of the best pieces I have seen done in the last ten years was “My Trip to Al Queda” beit more documentary than news story it had the kind of research and news feel to it that you used to see. Thre really is not the amount of digging and getting to the root of the news. Probably why I don’t watch it and read very little these days.

  7. I have an American professor friend teaching communications and business in China. Many of his students dream of coming to America to get a degree at the Columbia School of Journalism, with the intent to return to China to work.

    China isn’t well known for freedom of speech and press. So how will these journalism skills be used? Apparently for business. (Infomercial, advertorial, PR…).
    Why “Columbia School of Journalism”? Prestige. In other words, it’s good PR.

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