In the PoweR seat

Jeff Morosoff, Asst. Professor of Public Relations, Hofstra University

I continue to hear from students and professionals that public relations is often maligned by journalists. I would urge these media folks to look inward and re-think their often-too-public position that PR is the “dark side.” They’re biting the hand that feeds them.

In fact (and I’ve been saying this out loud for years), it’s time for journalists to step up and admit that they need PR people as much as PR people need them.  They might even need us more than we need them. I’ll explain:

First of all, social media has allowed PR practitioners to become their own media. In a review of “Be the Media”, David Mathison’s cool book on modern publishing tools, Ben H. Bagdikian, author, Pulitzer-winning journalist, and dean emeritus of the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley, says, “…modern methods permit every person and organization to reach an audience that only a few years ago was reserved for the multi-billion dollar media conglomerates.” The need for traditional media and messages pitched to and written by a third party is shrinking. This has many journalists scared.

Second, journalists know but won’t say how much they rely on PR people to help them find stories, get interviews, do research, and obtain resources. And it’s just an educated guess here, but I’ve observed that easily more than half the stories in any given news publication or program are first generated through a PR person’s pitch.

And my last point: membership in PR organizations include many former reporters who have retired, sometimes involuntarily, from journalism. It’s logical for them to come over to our side to work as public relations practitioners because of their knowledge of the media and their day-to-day experience working among us.

So who’s in the power seat here? Who should be given who a little more respect? I’ll let you answer these questions. Your thoughts?

9 thoughts on “In the PoweR seat

  1. Abdul

    Neither profession has leverage over the other. Journalists need stories and exclusives just as much as PR professionals need to maintain a strong image of their clients in the public eye. Journalists have an easier and more trusting relationship with the public through established credibility which is something that can be useful to PR professionals just as much as PR professionals have access to the exclusives that can help a journalist stay on top of his/her professional game.

  2. Stephanie

    I find the second point to be extremely true! A good journalist knows that relationships with his or her sources or potential sources is the key to finding and writing a solid story with credibility. The truth is in this statement, “Second, journalists know but won’t say how much they rely on PR people to help them find stories, get interviews, do research, and obtain resources.” PR people are extremely well connected and their already-built relationships (important to note- relationships build on TRUST) can help journalists land important interviews that add credibility, depth and truth to their stories.

  3. Valentine Francois

    In the case of who needs who more, I think both PR practioners and journalists need each other. It is fair to say the make life easier for one another by working together. Each would succeed on their own, but together things flow a little easier for both parties. I am tempted to agree with Ty that journalist may have a slight advantage because PR practioners rely on them to cover events, however, receiving stories from the practioners often eases the load and makes life a little easier for journalists.

  4. Michelle

    It is very important for journalists to understand that they need PR people to help them do their job. PR people provide journalists with stories on who they represent and send it out to the journalists writing about that certain areae of interest. Both PR people and journalists need to work together and there really isn’t a “power role”, both need one another to get their jobs done.

  5. Ty

    Power Seat? There’s no such thing in this situation. Both parties rely heavily on each other to carry out day to day tasks. Hmm, PR practitioners may need journalist a little more, now that I think about it. Journalist can find stories, and gain information from sources other than PR practitioners. The cycle does not really go the other way. Despite the boom of social media, there is still an audience that isn’t being reached. If PR practitioners were to cut out journalist, the holders of an audience(Newspaper readers) that social media can’t reach, there job would come difficult. I think both are due there respect, the average person does not encounter the headaches their two jobs come with.

  6. Minyvonne Burke

    Really interesting post. I honestly do not think either PR people or journalists have the power seat, like you said they both need each other. I don’t think I realized exactly how much journalists need and use PR people until I started interning at different media outlets. At the internship I have now, quite a few of my assignments come from a PR person who contacted my editor to see if someone can cover something and run it in the newspaper. However, PR people need journalists just as much. If they set up an event or function to bring awareness to something there client is doing they need journalists to show up and report on it. I’m kind of in the middle about your statement saying that journalists may need PR people more. I will admit that PR people have been very helpful (setting up interviews, providing important information etc) but I think they both benefit each other equally. Yes there are things that journalists need PR for but that relationship is mutual.


    Before having any PR class, my first reaction to PR was some pretty and tough ladies try to get “benefits” for themselves or companies in improper ways. Actually that’s the normal Chinese people’s thinking about PR, and PR has more connections with Marketing Department rather than journalists in my country. But if professor asks me to say something about PR and journalists, I would say that they complete and cooperate at the same time. They try to tell the public the story in their own ways. Journalists present news and information objectively and PR practitioners always try to persuade the public. Journalists and PR practitioners gain various experiences from work, so it’s not hard to switch the roles to be journalist or PR practitioners. It’s not about who is in the power seat here, it’s about how they work hard to spread information and lead the public opinion.



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