Lamenting a Dying Career
Written by Mark Prindle
I couldn’t help but be curious when Yahoo! flashed the headline “Dying Careers You Should Avoid,” so I clicked on the link to read of such no-longer-in-demand positions as ‘Desktop Publisher,’ ‘Semiconductor Processor’ and ‘Auto Insurance Appraiser.’ And there it was – a formerly enviable employment option that we in PR have watched become increasingly unviable with each passing year:
How did this happen? How did a career that has been around for four centuries, with entire schools devoted to preparing students for entry into its hallowed fourth estate walls – suddenly become as obsolete as a TRS-80? According to the article, it’s “because of the trend of consolidation of media companies and the decline in readership of newspapers.”
What lies behind both of these trends is the same uncomfortable truth that has devastated the recording industry: if you can get it for free on the Internet, why pay for it? Thus, local newspaper subscription numbers and ad sales have taken a nosedive, leading to widespread layoffs and office closings.
Some PR professionals celebrate this development because it has opened up multiple new avenues of coverage. Instead of working to secure stories in all of the top markets (as we did in the musty old 90s), publicists can now pitch hundreds of hobbyist bloggers, place client-bylined articles with such once-intimidating outlets as Businessweek and Forbes, or use social media sites to bypass the media altogether.
But is this really progress? Now, instead of impressive binders full of respectable newspaper clippings and hard-earned cover stories, we have “Tweets,” informal write-ups on amateur fan sites, and most alarmingly of all, tons and tons of content — much of which is promotional hype and redundant “thought leadership” that is the written equivalent of talking to hear the sound of one’s own voice. Honestly, how is a company to ‘break though the noise’ when the noise is thousands of times louder, deeper and more widespread than it’s ever been before?
In conclusion, as much as I appreciate the ‘anyone can be a journalist’ democracy of the Internet, I feel that both the PR profession and society as a whole will suffer if the career reporter becomes a thing of the past. Interestingly, the Yahoo! article that inspired this post recommends that students forego journalism to pursue the alternative career of ‘Public Relations Specialist’ – which begs the question, if all the budding reporters become publicists, who the heck are they going to pitch!?