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What a New Report on the Future of Journalism Means for PR

Journalism is in a state of flux, has been for years, and most likely will be for the foreseeable future. And whether you follow the industry closely, or are just a general consumer of news, you’ve experienced the shifts.
For those of us in PR and media relations, any changes in the way our journalist colleagues do their jobs also means changes in the way we do ours. To continue to be successful, we need to be willing to adapt our methods to ensure we’re truly serving as a resource for journalists. And to do that, we need to understand where they’re coming from and the pressures they face.
Much of this information comes from our solid and trusted one-on-one relationships established over time. But relationships need to start somewhere and we can’t begin to start new ones without a good sense of the industry as a whole.
This new report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and the Society of Professional Journalists provides a glimpse into what journalists are feeling about the future of their profession. In short, they anticipate their jobs becoming “more stressful, individualistic and less stable”—all of which is important for media relations professionals to take into account when planning pitches and doing media outreach.
For example, 77% of journalists surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that pressure to produce more stories will increase in the future. If they’re right, it could have wide-ranging impacts—both positive and negative on our work. Reporters might not have time to read our pitches at all, or they may rely on them more because they need to produce more. And while landing more stories would be a great thing, rushed reporting may not be. At the very least, it would impact how we prepared campus spokespeople for interviews, and would also play a role in what kinds of stories we may choose to pitch. The ones that require more time may get left out of the equation.
In addition, 71% of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “journalistic employment will become increasingly precarious and uncertain in the future.” They report that they expect more journalists to be self-employed and question whether journalists can remain a full-time profession. We’re already starting to see some of this play out, which can make targeting specific reporters and outlets challenging.
The report is clear that journalism isn’t going away—and that at it’s core it remains a set of “fundamental practices and techniques that is not dependent on medium.” But ultimately our success on behalf of our institutions requires us to appreciate the evolving media landscape at the most fundamental level—the human level—as best as we can. And in a profession that relies so heavily on relationships, knowing the changes and challenges reporters face on a daily basis is one step toward that understanding.