Journalism and Public Relations

A recent article in “GOVERNING” pointed out, again, the worries over the loss of newspapers and journalism. It was recently announced that people in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville, Alabama and, New Orleans, will now join the ranks of other cities with only part-time delivery of news in print which not only includes the paper I used to deliver, the Ann Arbor News, but the Detroit News and Free Press. 

As Newspapers Shrink, Public Officials Worry »

Recent cutbacks in daily print schedules will leave communities less informed.



As the economics of media shift and change, speculation aside, no one really has the solution for what will succeed next.   Blogging and social media are valuable – but what is popular is not always important.  What is important is not always popular.

Some have proposed newsletters and more information from the government.  More information can be good, but it is information, from the government.

What’s lost in much of the angst is that the “sweet spot” of journalism’s last century or so was driven by economics.  Attempts at impartial news coverage, of trying to focus on facts without bias, is a fairly new thing.   The earliest “newspapers” 500 and more years ago were by the church, then the state.   When Benjamin Franklin’s brother started his “independent” newspaper in Boston, the powerful in Boston were not pleased.  Ben and his brother left town not long after.

The unease and change in newspapers is not new.  Newspapers have opened and closed for centuries.   The difference, now, is that we live in a culture where information is very important to survival, but fact-based information is becoming less economically viable.

Dylan Ratigan posted figures a while ago that sound about right:
In 1980, there were .45 Public Relations professionals versus .36 Journalists per 100,000 people.  By 2008, the figures had changed to .90 PR pros to .25 Journalists per 100,000.

Twice as many PR people per capita, a third fewer journalists.

There is more information than ever before.  How a citizen gets facts versus spin is an ongoing challenge.  But in the escalation of information, expect even more PR pros in the future.   Probably fewer journalists.

Here’s hoping journalists are good finding the facts amidst the spin.  And the public is good at finding the journalists.


About sehanley

Musician, journalist, teacher, technologist, consultant & former NPR station manager. A media and entertainment professional, journalist, entrepreneur, technology advocate, educator, student, mentor, manager, and media, musical and theatrical performer. Voice talent and coach for music and spoken word. I also act and sing (mostly jazz, but a lot of experience with choral, classical and musical theater, too). Brass instruments, too, but my AF ofM card lapsed years ago. Heard on the national jazz service, PubJazz, and in the Pittsburgh market on WZUM/Pittsburgh Jazz Channel. I also teach college level courses in media and journalism. I managed the leading NPR/public radio station in Pittsburgh, PA for 16 years, a few years later was GM of the NPR station WBHM in Birmingham, AL. I served for six very busy years on the NPR Board of Directors and have done much volunteer service for national and local organizations in the communities I have been privileged to live and work in. Former NPR Board Member, former President of the Pittsburgh Radio Organization, sometime musician, relentless technology advocate. Opinions expressed are not the viewpoints of any employer or affiliation past or present.
This entry was posted in Ann Arbor, Detroit News, journalism. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Journalism and Public Relations

  1. “…but what is popular is not always important. What is important is not always popular.” NIce observation. Great post.

    I hate what’s happening to the press. And to so much else. So many trusted, defining institutions in transition.

    I am too old for this shit!

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