PR vs. journalism

Here’s troubling news for those of you who like being troubled. That’s not everyone, certainly, but I write a lot about media, and media types require daily vexation.

A recent Pew Research Center study reported that the pay gap is widening between sainted reporters, on the one hand, and PR hacks on the other. Said Pew:

In 2013, according to [Bureau of Labor Statistics] data, public relations specialists earned a median annual income of $54,940 compared with $35,600 for reporters. In other words, journalists on average earn just 65% of what those in public relations earn. That is a greater income gap than in 2004 when journalists were paid 71 cents of every dollar earned by those in public relations ($43,830 versus $31,320).”

Pew went on to say that reporters’ salaries during this time “did not even keep up with inflation.”

Could any news be less startling? This is obviously a boom time for public relations. The world is filled with pigs, and those pigs require lipstick. When human affairs proceed according to God’s plan, hard-charging young reporters grow old and bitter and weary, and at this point, mustering the flimsy excuse that “the kids are getting close to college age,” they take the fat sum PR is waving at them and bail out. This clears space for the next generation of hard-charging young reporters. Ecologically, this is the balance of nature and a thing of beauty.

Where the Pew report should concern us is here:

Over this 10-year stretch, the number of reporters decreased from 52,550 to 43,630, a 17% loss according to the BLS data. In contrast, the number of public relations specialists during this time frame grew by 22%, from 166,210 to 202,530.

There have never been enough cynical old reporters to completely fill the ranks of PR specialists. Agencies have had to resort to desperate measures, such as hiring bright young idealists straight from college who actually believe the claims of their clients. But now the gap is becoming critically wide.

The peril is clear. A lack of reporters will merely guarantee that corruption reigns. A lack of PR specialists will increase the possibility that the public notices.