Journalism shifts: What is different and what stays the same

What is journalism today?

Many different things, apparently.

When thinking about a possible career, many U.S. college students and job seekers rule out journalism because they think of the dying newspaper industry. The fact overlooked by those people is that journalism is not dying, it is transforming. Where many journalists used to work for newspapers or magazines, they now contribute to blogs, write for online news outlets, and work as public relations specialists.

As part of this new journalism, public relations in particular has expanded rapidly. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 there were just 57,600 journalism jobs, while there were 229,100 public relations jobs.

Many of these public relations specialists live in the Reno area. They work for the state of Nevada, for nonprofits, and for educational institutions.

Chris Moran, Lauren Lake, and John Trent are a few of these individuals. They succeed in public relations because they look at their jobs through journalists’ eyes. Though they are not newspaper reporters, they still use editing, reporting, writing, and interviewing in their jobs.

“Part travel agent, part editor, part writer,” is how Moran, a public relations specialist at the Nevada Commission on Tourism, describes her job. Underneath all of these activities, Moran is using her journalism skills. Every day, she determines which freelancers to hire and which press releases to send out based on what is timely, newsworthy, and attention-getting. Her years of working at the Reno Gazette-Journal and other publications have led her to develop an eye for good journalism. This in turn helps NCOT to succeed. Moran makes sure news outlets want to publish the information coming from NCOT based on its newsworthy merit.

Similarly, former newspaper editor John Trent notices his journalism skills coming into play in his job as a public relations specialist at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is often called upon to write quickly and accurately on deadline. As senior editor of news and features for marketing and communications at UNR, Trent has seen situations arise that need immediate responses from the university. Once such situation was the 1998 killing of Sergeant George D. Sullivan on the UNR campus. Trent was new in public relations, but was the staff person to represent the university. He was able to write about the situation in a quick, effective manner due to his experience writing for a daily newspaper. Though the murder of Sergeant Sullivan left everyone in shock, Trent’s previous experience producing write-ups for sports games allowed him to write under pressure.

Being able to select stories and write quickly are not the only valuable journalism skills in public relations. Lauren Lake, a 2011 graduate of the Reynolds School, sees interview skills as a necessity. As Program Manager for the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation, she interviews people for the organization’s newsletter just like a reporter would.

As these three testify, job seekers today have to take their degree and use it in unexpected situations. Lake said, “You never know what opportunities will come up,” so it is important to be open and flexible in any circumstances that arise.

“You find yourself in weird situations,” Moran said. She said she once was asked to dance in a travel video for one of her clients. Her day-to-day routine changes frequently as well. She might be facilitating a photo shoot with Governor Sandoval one day and driving a group of writers around Nevada the next.

This idea of flexibility is echoed in a slightly different way by Trent. He said he believes public relations and daily journalism are very similar. He also said, “The core foundational knowledge you learn in journalism school, you still use.” Keeping an open mind like this allows journalists who are transitioning from daily journalism to public relations to be flexible about switching focuses.

No matter what the differences might be, people with journalism degrees and previous work experience can apply that knowledge to public relations. Being able to adapt like this is vital in today’s job market, as technology and other forces cause people to apply the skills they already possess in different ways.

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