PR & Media Relations Street Smarts


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J-Schools are booming but is the PR curriculum keeping pace?

Recently published a story on the irony of while newspapers and magazines are going under at an unprecedented rate, enrollment in journalism schools around this country is at an all-time high. The crux of the article being that these advancing hordes of would-be journalists have little to look forward to in the way of meaningful employment after college other than less than desirable journalistic exercises such as Cat Fancy magazine or even teaching in this current recession. Although one can’t help but assume that Cat Fancy, teaching, or even might be very desirable given the current job market.

Nothing of course was said about those journalism grads that might be considering a career in public relations…and probably for good reason. If, as the article states, that 5,000 journalists have lost their newspaper jobs last year, then it’s probably a good bet that dramatically more PR types also took a job hit in 2008. And if any of those incoming journalism students wish to consider a job in PR right out of college, beware, you’ve got two big mountains to climb.

First and foremost is obviously the extremely limited number of entry-level jobs available. Secondly and maybe as important, is the limited and non-essential pabulum being dished out as the PR major in most journalism schools. Based on my experience in both guest lecturing and in hiring interns, public relations is still considered the unwanted stepchild in most j-school curriculum's at worst, or based on the out-dated traditional model of press releases and mass communication theory at best.

Neither prepares graduating students even remotely for the fast-paced media relations driven world of entry-level PR. Way too much time is spent on how to write a good press release (which may be the ultimate oxymoron in journalism) than how to spot and understand “soft news angles” and how to turn them into a meaningful and influential pitch with a reporter or producer. A good PR school teaches how to write journalistically…a great PR school teaches how to understand the news, what makes a great story…and how to “sell” that story.

I understand there may not be a way of “teaching” all the skills and experience needed to be effective immediately, that much of what we exercise daily in our jobs is derived from learning as we go…watching, learning, practicing…developing news “street smarts.” But if J-schools are booming and as flush as mentioned, why not take those select few students inclined toward PR, and provide a learning and experience framework that will provide some of those street smarts within or even outside the classroom?

It might actually allow them to be the exception…a college grad with a job. I know we’d be interested.

From INK inc. PR ( follow INK PR CEO Richard Grove at


tags: journalism, small business, college, higher education, economy, marketing, pr, business, news headlines, professional services, jobs, media, publicity, graduates, teaching, university,

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