A journalism degree is far superior

News-Reporter This may upset more than one PR professional, academic or student, but I believe a journalism degree trumps one in PR when it comes to succeeding in my industry.

The thought occurred to me after reading a blog by Debra Caruso, a former journalist who now runs her own PR firm.

Caruso lists the following reasons why journalism majors and former journalists make the best PR pros:

  • They have a nose for news.
  • They craft press releases and other copy that is more clear, compelling and accurate.
  • They understand a journalist's life, know when to pitch or not pitch and will score more placements as a result.
  • Former journalists know how to follow a reporter, understand her needs and can help her put together a piece to sell to the editor.

That's good stuff. But, there's far more to it than that. I majored in journalism and had the good fortune to work as a newsclerk at The New York Times, a reporter at WGCH in Greenwich, Ct., and as a newswriter at CBS Radio in Boston. The jobs were part of my five-year co-op curriculum at Northeastern University.

So, at the tender age of 19, I rubbed shoulders with some of the greatest journalists of their generation at the Times. At 20 years of age, I was a sports and news personality who was on-the-air five times a day and hosted an hour-long monthly talk show. And, at the relatively advanced age of 21, I was writing copy for breaking news stories that was then read live by top CBS anchors.

I lived, ate and breathed journalism 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I understood what made news and what didn't. I mastered the art of meeting constant deadlines. And I was provided an invaluable sneak peek into a newsroom's quirks, eccentricities and demands.

So, when I washed up on the shores of Hill & Knowlton as a 22-year-old junior account executive, I knew exactly how to pitch stories and deliver results.

Today's PR graduates do just fine when they hit the agency or corporate worlds. But, there's no substitute for majoring in journalism or working in a newsroom. Both provide an intrinsic understanding of news and newspeople that no PR undergraduate or graduate degree can match.

A journalism pedigree also assures fewer typos, better writing and less reliance on mass e-mails to pitch a story. And, trust me, that's something every senior manager in a PR firm can appreciate.

3 thoughts on “A journalism degree is far superior

  1. Thanks Julie. I’m sure the better PR majors get to experience a newsroom once or twice in their four year curriculum. But, that’s a far cry from working in one either as a full-time Summer intern or cub reporter, as they used to call Jimmy Olson.

  2. I also agree wholeheartedly with RepMan. I hope that some of the classes the PR majors are attending include visiting a major city newsroom where the students can gain a clear understanding of the breaking news cycle, how journalists respond, and how a savvy PR professional may become an invaluable resource.

  3. I whole heartily agree with you, Repman. I don’t have any college experience, but I started working at a newspaper newsroom at the age of 14 and had my first bylined article published at 15. I worked as a production assistant at WOR-Radio in New York City at the age of 20 — working the graveyard shift setting up the studio for John Gambling’s morning show and logging commercials for the FCC. Then it was network radio, handling street reporting and doing live remotes. Never have missed a deadline in more than four decades. The experiences of being in a newsroom setting gives you a better understanding of how both operations and reporters work. The best story is the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. I was on my shift as a senior producer for about an hour when it was panic time. Forty seconds to air and a director comes out of the studio asking for the script and carts. The talent who was scheduled to anchor the show misread the schedule and was back at the hotel lounging at the pool. I just reacted, jumped into the studio, flipped the pages for the format for the right ABC Radio Network and then proceeded to ad-lib a 2 1/2 minute show based on what I recalled happened that day. Sure, television is the marquis, but there’s nothing like live radio. I’m sure that radio talk show also has helped you in front of audiences. These experiences help with public speaking, interviews and many other areas. And from my experiences, I have been able to teach at two universities.