Over at Getting Ink, Sally has raised some interesting questions about doing PR from a journalist's perspective. Many freelance hacks dabble in PR - when commissions are thin or you just want some regular income, it's easy enough to get writing shifts at a PR agency or take on business clients looking for PR and wanting to hire those with a solid journalistic background. A lot of journalists also shift over permanently to PR at some point in their career. After all, who better to understand what journalists want in a story than a journalist, right? Right.
Yet, it's a precarious position to be in, as Sally has discovered. I was actually quite shocked that some lazy hacks were demanding the PR bunny set up interviews with their client's rivals. Any journalist too lazy to do that really ought to be forced to spend the rest of their career covering church fêtes and court reports. (And hoping to be nominated for a Churner Prize if they honestly think asking a PR to write 800 words for their own byline is acceptable behaviour.) (But apparently these things are all normal practice, according to PRs, so maybe I shouldn't be too shocked at what colleagues get up to.) I was also quite gobsmacked that one journo could say to another (highly experienced) journo "that's not a story".
It's for all these reasons that PR is an area I tend to shy away from. I will draft the occasional press release for a client, as long as the business is not operating in an area I normally cover as a journalist, to avoid conflict of interest. Otherwise, I'd rather earn additional income from copy-editing or copywriting. It's a somehow cleaner relationship. Certainly one that makes me feel less grubby.*
*I'm not suggesting that Sally is grubby. Far from it. Because I know she's not. I'm just less comfortable about taking on PR work.