Reporting vs. Writing
A friend once told me there are two types of journalists: those who care about the story, and those who care about the writing. Very rarely do the two overlap.
In journalism school, I cared only about the story. I assumed editors would always fix my writing, but the story could make me famous. Too often, to break the story as soon as possible, I left eloquence by the wayside.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To some extent, journalism needs writers such as this.
But after working at a newspaper for two years, I realized journalism schools are pumping out people by the hundreds, who care only about the story. Everyone hopes they have the next big scoop, but very few actually have the means to write it. (And those who do are too expensive for newspapers to employ.)
The story was always important, but impact was often lost in translation with grammatical and structural errors. I read stories where the reporter didn’t know the difference (or just didn’t care) between the words were and we’re,, affect and effect, ex. and i.e., and so on. But worse, I read stories where the reporter spelled a single person’s name differently 10 times.
I find it hard to imagine that John Updike or Gay Talese ever made such grave errors.
Recently, I made the switch to PR and it hasn’t been easy. I crossed the fence, as they say, to the “dark side.” I am now the pitcher instead of the catcher. While there always will be a great divide between journalism and PR, I think both sides can agree on the importance of story telling.
Previously, I operated under the same notion as many other journalists and thought PR was just a series of twists and spins that covered the reality of the hidden story. I foolishly overlooked the search for truth in the PR profession. Since switching, I’ve discovered the lessons that PR has to offer.
Similar to journalists, good PR professionals research their stories to the fullest and put the most important facts first. I’ve always heard of spin, but I haven’t witnessed it yet. What I do see is the search for great storytelling. Both journalism and PR hope to stay relevant by focusing on timely and newsworthy stories. Both strive for the utmost transparency.
The main similarity I discovered in both PR and journalism is presentation is everything, whether it’s a story or a pitch. A respectable article loses credibility if a top source is spelled wrong or if it contains multiple verb tenses in the same sentence. The story is important and the grammar and structure should honor that.
Whether or not either side acknowledges it, PR and journalism have a symbiotic relationship. PR professionals hope to coax a story while journalists try to write a fair one. Writers in both fields strive for the perfect balance of story and style. It’s hard to attain and easy to blame the counterbalance.
Both industries look at the other’s job as easier. But, done well, neither is.
— Cara Hebert