Journalists and public relations professionals have a symbiotic relationship. Recently though, it seems the PR specialists are getting more out of the relationship, at least financially, than their counterparts in newsrooms.
According to an article recently published by the Pew Research Center, there is a growing pay gap between journalism and public relations. For every $1 a PR specialist made in 2004, a reporter made 71 cents, and in 2013 the gap was even bigger. A reporter made 65 cents to every $1 a PR specialist made. When calculated out to a yearly salary, the gap is $20,000, according to the 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The pay gap effects reporters from experienced professionals to entry level employees, for those entering the workforce there is a $5,000 difference in the salary of an entry level newspaper reporter versus a PR specialists, and a $6,000 gap in television reporting.
The pay difference is staggering, but it doesn’t end there. PR professionals are now outnumbering journalists 5 to 1, which does not even include self-employed professionals. During the nine years between 2004 and 2013, there has been a 17% drop in reporters, from 52,220 to 43,630. Along with a drop in professional reporters, there is also a drop in those entering journalism schools. According to the 2013 Annual Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Enrollments, “the percentages of students enrolled in the journalism specialization decreased in the autumn of 2013 compared with a year earlier. The percentage of students in public relations and advertising remained largely unchanged.”
A few reasons have been determined for the pay gap between the two fields.
A large reason is believed to trace back to a time when salaries in the PR industry were increasing, while salaries in the field of journalism couldn’t keep up with inflation.
Not surprisingly, another sizable factor is the rise of digital media technology. Digital media has allowed companies and associations to reach their audiences on a more personal and immediate level than ever before. Recognizing the advantages and necessity of utilizing digital media properly, these companies and associations are hiring PR specialists to help them navigate the new market.
As this news is welcomed for the PR industry, it poses problems for its newsy counterpart. With the need to keep up with the instant news we are used to, a shrinking staff has made it very difficult for reporters to properly vet their sources. Editor&Publisher published a special issue on the staff cutbacks in 2007. Joe Strupp wrote, “For reporters, it means taking time that was once spent digging for stories or networking with sources and instead using it to crank out or update the latest web scoop.”
According to a Pew Research Center Report, the 2012 presidential election is a perfect example of how reporters relayed information rather than investigating and reporting the news. The report asserted that there was a rise in partisan voices and spin which was attributed to, “diminishing reportorial resources in newsrooms.”
As the pay-gap changes between journalists and PR professionals, the symbiotic relationship between them changes as well. It makes it even more necessary that the news we as PR professionals are offering to journalists fits the standards of newsworthiness that they must meet. It must be relevant to their audience, it must be timely, it must have human interest, and if targeted to the state or local assignment desk, it must be local! We have a large part to play in ensuring the advancement of the industry we all love, and rely on.