I’ll always remember interviewing a locally-based reporter who was working at the Detroit Bureau of a national news outlet. “I can’t believe I’m considering coming over to the dark side,” he commented on the possibility of moving from media into public relations. Today, many years later, he is a prominent and respected PR lead for a top automotive OEM, having successfully made the transition from the one telling the stories to the one pitching them.
Once not as common, reporters moving from media to public relations/communications has been a fairly consistent occurrence over the past decade. And it’s happening more and more every day. This past week, Robin Schwartz announced she was leaving Fox-2 after 17 years with the station to join Bedrock as their PR Director. Similarly, longtime WDET-Radio anchor Craig Fahle exited the studio for the Detroit Land Bank as Communications Director while weatherman/TV legend Chuck Gaidica traded the set for the pulpit in August.
As someone who also made the switch from radio to PR (in 1994), I have observed the shifts in attitudes and job titles firsthand. The tipping point was the Detroit newspaper strike of 1995. Before the strike, quite often I experienced long-time reporters with no respect for the public relations professional. “I don’t need some snot-nosed kid to tell me what’s news,” I heard more than once. And while, unfortunately, many of these same writers would ultimately lose their jobs, those taking their place were largely green and without source contacts. They understood immediately how I could assist with access to top sources that would help them in identifying new stories and trends. An attitudinal shift followed. Media and PR, once demonstrating mutual respect, would become collaborators rather than typecast adversaries.
With stigmas pushed aside, many reporters and writers through the years to today have made the logical move to communications. After all, who better to know how to package and pitch news stories and information to media outlets and other audiences? As important in such moves is the quality of life factor. Matt and I both tired of working early morning, late nights and weekends in our on-air roles. TV personalities in particular work 3p-11p when at the top of their game.
But the theme you hear most often when talking to former media talent who have opted away from the bright lights and notoriety? A desire at a certain point in life to do something more. More rewarding. More difference-making. More family-friendly. In the case of Schwartz and Fahle, in particular, the opportunity to be a part of Detroit’s resurgence was no doubt too good to pass up. For Gaidica, a higher-calling to preach trumped reporting on low pressure systems.
Bottom line for media and PR practitioners: We are all professionals dedicated to telling stories and communicating effectively, strategically, truthfully. No dark sides. Only transparency.