An unlikely career path: journalist to PR pro and back to journalist

An unlikely career path: journalist to PR pro and back to journalist

Choosing to go back into journalism after being in public relations isn’t very common. I know this. And I understand why people give me the raised eyebrow vibe when I tell them that I am indeed jumping back into the journalism world from nearly full-time PR.

The norm these days seem to be just the opposite, where seasoned journalists are looking to change up their career trajectory and make the leap from one side of the media industry to the other, from journalism to public relations. Or as my journalism professors proclaimed back in college, moving to the “the dark side.”

Making the Move to Public Relations

It makes sense why journalists, whether you’re a J-school student right out of graduation or a veteran journalist after a lifetime of achievements in traditional media, see the appeal of moving to PR. I was one of them.

Public relations tend to offer more lucrative gigs (according to a Pew Research Center study, for every $1 a public relations specialist made, a reporter made $0.65), more consistent job stability and opportunities to easily translate your journo talents directly to the PR world. Which, my friends, is important to note why journalists are so enticing to public relations agencies and in-house PR teams … simply put, they know the media inside and out better than anybody.

I was the quintessential enthused and inspired J-school student and freelance journalist looking to take on the world with investigative profile pieces and committed to maintaining the journalists’ code of ethics through quality reporting and telling of authentic stories.

Well. After feeling the uphill battle of freelance work as a newbie journalist and realization of relatively low staff writer pay (and remarks from journalism professors about the downfall of journalism – this was right in the middle of traditional news moving into the new media direction), I quickly realized the opportunities available to me in the public relations agency world. And I took the leap. I went to the dark side (I say this lovingly).

The following six years were spent working at PR agencies where I provided public relations, event management and  marketing services for a wide range of clients including global corporations, nonprofit organizations, public agencies and local businesses. I then launched into solorpeneurship as a freelance writer and public relations consultant for the next three years, dabbling in some journalism assignments here and there to scratch the itch but primarily focused on PR.

And Back to Journalism

Although I had (and still have) a successful career in public relations – and have really enjoyed the projects, clients and working lifestyle – I missed the good old days of being on the other side of the news, on the other side of the interview, on the other side of the media world.

So I recently took another leap…this time back into journalism, working hard on refocusing my career as a freelance writer, editor and journalist while balancing some communications consulting work on the side to help keep income flowing and support other professional interests.

Journalists, Don’t Give Up Just Yet

Freelancing is super challenging, yes. Working as a staff writer for a publication is becoming less likely an option, yes. Chasing down paychecks and projects can be exhausting and debilitating, yes.

But let us not forget that journalism is not dead. We’re still amidst change in the news and media industry, absolutely, but that does not take away the need for quality, responsible and ethical journalists who are committed to investigating, reporting and sharing relevant, authentic and useful news and information with the world.

Aspiring journalists and J-school students, do not give up.

There is a career out there for you, you just need to work hard at finding what that career looks without giving up the journalist in you.

Working journalists, do not give up. 

It may be feast or famine at times, but what you’re doing is important work. Remember why you got into journalism in the first place and stick by it.

Public relations and journalism go hand in hand. Let’s continue to work together to help save journalism and encourage professional journalists to remain committed to improving the art of journalism and upholding its ethical standards for generations to come.

Have you made the transition from public relations to journalism, or vice versa? Share your story with us!

Cherise Henry is a freelance writer, editor and journalist, and communications consultant based in Sacramento, California. She’s passionate about telling meaningful stories and creating impactful content, connecting with people through the written word. On Twitter @cherisehenry.

Photo: Walking direction via Shutterstock

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