Q. After graduating in May with a journalism/political science degree, I luckily landed an agency internship, which is about half way completed. I would prefer to stay in PR, but I have just been offered a reporting job at a small daily newspaper near my hometown. If I take the newspaper job, what’s the chances I can return to PR eventually? -PK
A. If the reporting job is guaranteed and you truly want to remain in PR, I suggest a conversation with your agency supervisors to determine the likelihood of a full-time position opening up by the end of your internship. Don’t worry about their being offended that you might leave before completing the internship. Everyone understands the importance of employment.
You are lucky to have received an offer to become a reporter. I started my career as a reporter and still feel that it was one of my best jobs ever, although the pay was paltry. Unfortunately, the newspaper industry has been hit extremely hard by the current recession, and many journalists are unemployed, freelancing and trying to switch careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BSL) predicts little change in employment rates for journalists between now and 2016. While competition will continue to be keen for jobs on large metropolitan and national newspapers, radio/TV stations and magazines, BSL indicates that small broadcast stations and publications and online newspapers and magazines should provide the best opportunities. Opportunities also exist for individuals who are strong technical writers. In fact, a young friend recently landed a boring sounding technical writing job, but her new salary level significantly topped what any general PR agency could pay.
Now to your tougher question, migrating from reporting to public relations is becoming very difficult. Years ago, it was a natural career move to go into PR after being a reporter. Today, the requirement for PR talent to hit the ground running and to become immediately billable requires agencies and many corporations to concentrate on candidates with recent PR experience. Several former media friends are now working in PR, but they landed positions with nonprofit and government agencies where local media contacts are beneficial. So, it’s possible to get back into PR after being a reporter, but it’s definitely no longer a traditional path.