Journalists Write For “The Customer” First

Jefferson George writing to Jim Romenesko:

I was a newspaper reporter for six years before taking my first (and only) PR job, which I had for four years. Despite a comfortable salary and impressive VP title, I left PR about six months ago and returned to newspapers — Knight Ridder, no less — at arguably the most anxious time in their history. Why? In the end, it was that whole “public service/making a difference” thing, tired as that might seem.
I had great opportunities in PR, traveling around the U.S. and working with reporters, editors and producers at top outlets — WSJ, CNN, NPR, etc. I’ve got a box of clips, DVDs and tapes of stories I helped journalists with. But helping isn’t doing, and in the end I craved the chance to once again chase a story on my own.
Do I like every story I write now? Of course not. I also didn’t like every pitch I made while in PR, but in the end, you work for the client and do what they want, or you don’t have the client very long (and maybe not other clients if word gets around). In newspapers — even in this era of “answering to Wall Street” — I still believe you work for the public. That’s a big difference, and one every journalist should think about.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.