It was a good week to be an aspiring journalist. Diane Sawyer did an awesome job interviewing Bruce Jenner. The media did an okay job at covering the Freddie Gray stuff in Baltimore. Some journalists really stepped up their game this week.
It was a good week to be a journalist until I read this news about a Pulitzer prize winner switching to a job in PR because of the pay.
One of my worst fears, as a journalism student, is finishing my college degree and then winding up in a job in public relations.
I say that, of course, as I’m considering adding a PR double major to my plan for graduation.
I know a couple of pretty cool people in PR, and I know that none of them are struggling to feed their families or save up to by a house (well, no more so than anyone else). Every working journalist I know, though, is strapped for cash.
As I’ve watched one of my good friends from The Towerlight prepare to graduate, I’ve watched him prep for many a job interview. Some with newspapers or other media outlets. But he hasn’t been so foolish as to avoid applying for PR jobs all together.
This guy, who I’ve admired as a journalist for two years, can admit to himself that working as a reporter isn’t wholly viable anymore. It’s at once comforting and terrifying.
Comforting, because that means I could probably justify it to myself if graduation day comes along and I’ve got a job with Blue Water Baltimore instead of The Baltimore Sun.
Terrifying because it means that even this man, who I’ve admired as a journalist, is willing to take that step into the shadowy depths of PR.
It’s a terrible place to be in.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with PR. I get that large organizations and important people and figures need staff to help communicate their messages. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to step over that line.
I’m studying journalism. I’m practicing reporting. I’m reading articles that people have pored over, so that I might learn from them. I’m memorizing passages from the AP Stylebook. I’m working on creating a name for myself to build up my credibility.
There are times when I allow myself to feel optimistic about it. I know at least four Towerlight graduates who have pretty good jobs in journalism (one is a CNN anchor, so, y’know. It’s possible to make it big).
But then there are times, like when I read about a Pulitzer winning switching to PR, that I feel a bit distraught at the whole thing. Has pursuing a career in reporting, in holding people accountable, become totally fruitless?
I don’t know that I could make the choice to starve myself and my family for the sake of a reporting job.