From newsroom to PR: Welcome to “the dark side”
I always wanted to be a journalist. Never thought of being anything else. And for nearly 20 years I lived my dream, met my photojournalist husband in the newsroom and raised our son as a newshound. News and media was our life.
In those days, journos would climb the editorial ladder, go to the subs desk and become editors. Those who left media would work as press secretaries to politicians, head media teams in government departments and churn out media releases at charities and big companies. They were no longer journalists. They had “gone to the dark side’’.
PRs were dismissed outright while we scribes wrote stories from scratch, interviewed people face-to-face, attended court, police rounds, pollie doorstops, disasters and death knocks and rarely accepted submitted pictures.
So how on earth have we found ourselves on “the dark side’’?
We felt the winds of change in the mid-2000s and took voluntary redundancy in 2009. Among the first wave of the tide of redundancies which has swept through the traditional media, we didn’t realise it at the time but we were actually pioneers.
First, we wrote a coffee table book. Everyone loved it, no one bought it.
We tried our hand as travel writers. I even won an award. While we could definitely write stories and shoot images, we failed dismally at selling ourselves, pitching stories and reaching out to editors. We never had to while working for one media outlet.
We didn’t intend to go into PR. It just happened. A local organisation was restructuring and wanted to refocus their PR to communications driven by a journalist/photographer team. We would sniff out stories, shoot postcard-style images and organise travel itineraries for the occasional visiting journalist. Easy.
For the first six months I was, uncharacteristically, a sobbing, hyperventilating mess at least once a week, lost 10kg and worked until 1am most nights, desperately trying to learn the ropes and battle the shame of becoming a PR chic.
Over time, we did learn the formulae for valuing media outcomes, we built up a huge media contact list and made sure the organisation we contracted to gained media attention every single week for three years solid.
Today, we run a boutique communications consultancy offering writing skills, photography and media services. We’re also branching back into freelance travel stories, character profiles and history articles, and David has begun to explore his creativity and photographic art. We do all of that under the one banner – and we’re not the only ones.
These days, ex-journos prefer to be called communications consultants (me included). Readers, listeners and viewers now provide much of the news content. Bloggers and social influencers have emerged as the new media. Reality TV is the new reality. Media reports on media and new terms like
marcomms’’ andbrand journalism’’ have cropped up. Everyone is supposed to have a blog, social media platforms and be skilled across all mediums from writing, photography and video.
So what does it all mean for the media, for business, for politics and, the group often overlooked in all of this, the reader/consumer?
Through this regular blog, I will explore some of the challenges and pitfalls, advantages and new opportunities and encourage input, new ideas and healthy and robust (yet respectful) discussion.
One thing I know for certain is that “the dark side’’ really is many shades of grey.