Blogs | Ethan Shorey

More PR + less journalism = not good

Kathy Gregg has an interesting piece in The Journal on the increasing number of public relations jobs in Rhode Island government. For some PR positions, pay is also going up.

My immediate thought was not about whether taxpayer dollars are being wasted, but on the ongoing trend of good journalists making the shift to the "dark side," as Paul Spetrini and others have jokingly put it. As more PR jobs become available and the pay keeps going up, jobs in journalism look less attractive, and government accountability takes a hit.

"Swelling of PR ranks + shrinking of press ranks = not a good thing," I tweeted at Gregg.

There are plenty of honest PR folks out there, but the nature of their job is to make their bosses look good, as Gov. Gina Raimondo's Chief of Staff Stephen Neuman conceded in Gregg's story. He added, "but the important part is that we communicate honestly and regularly with citizens so that they are aware of the work that their government is doing."

Those on the PR side have an important job, but how many of the stories that make news would never see the light of day if their validity was decided by the people who represent the subject of the stories? I'd venture to say that the percentage would be very low. At the least, many stories would be heavily edited.

As Belichick would say, it is what it is.

Greg Wind, who runs the Wind Communications Agency, agreed with me that good journalists are needed for government accountability.

"No matter how transparent you want to be, we need press to challenge the assumptions and find transparency failures," he tweeted.

WPRI reporter Ted Nesi said he's fine with a PR pro making good money, but not if they're going to be unresponsive. The same is true for other people who don't do their job well, he said.

"I'm not fine with paying bad journalists a good salary (or even a bad salary) for that matter," he tweeted. "It's about people."

I agree. Many PR people, like the DOT's Charles St. Martin, are excellent. A few are dreadful. The same holds true on the (shrinking) journalism side.


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