What a Pulitzer winner leaving journalism over money means for PR

If the best of the best journalists are jumping ship, that means the pool of capable, talented reporters with whom PR pros can work is shrinking.

If you’ve ever worked as a print journalist of any sort, the Pulitzer Prize has likely crossed your mind in some capacity. Maybe it was even a dream of yours to win it.

Rob Kuznia realized that dream. For his work with The Daily Breeze, Kuznia, along with Rebecca Kimitch and Frank Suraci, won this year’s coveted Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.

But Kuznia no longer works for The Daily Breeze. He works in public relations. According to LA Observed, Kuznia works in the communications department of The University of Southern California Shoah Foundation. His reason? LA Observed reporter Kevin Roderick explains:

I spoke with him this afternoon and he admitted to a twinge of regret at no longer being a journalist, but he said it was too difficult to make ends meet on his newspaper salary while renting in the LA area.

(According to Columbia Journalism Review, yet another 2015 Pulitzer winner, Natalie Caula Hauff of The Post and Courier, also left reporting for the greener pastures of PR. In her case, it was because she wanted to start a family.) While I never even came within a whiff of even applying for anything resembling a Pulitzer Prize (or even a Cracker Jack prize, for that matter), I can relate to Kuznia’s story. I don’t know him, but I know the dilemma he must have faced. And I can especially relate to his desire to be able to pay rent.

Like so many of my current colleagues, I spent the first part of my career as a journalist. First at small-town newspapers, and then at the Chicago Sun-Times as a Web editor, blogger and occasional reporter. I left to work for ESPN.com, and then Fox Sports, and then, well, I got tired of suffering for my art.

The panic over whether to leave the profession set in while I was still at the Sun-Times. After watching far more accomplished co-workers there led out of the newsroom by building security during mass layoffs, I realized that my days of being a journalist—my lifelong dream—were severely numbered.

Kuznia turned to public relations. I turned to content marketing. I consider them distant cousins.

Beneath Kuznia’s decision, and the similar decision that more journalists are making every day, is a telling trend of which every PR pro should be aware. The fact is this: PR pros don’t just require journalists to help tell their company’s story, they want to work with talented journalists. They require the right journalists.

And if Pulitzer Prize winners are defecting, that doesn’t bode well. It’s not good for journalism to be losing its top practitioners. If something’s not good for journalism, it’s not good for PR.

Job satisfaction for journalists was at an all-time low (23 percent) in 2013, according to a University of Indiana study. Earlier this month, we told you that journalist was officially the “worst job.”

So, where does this leave us? Public relations has always been a relationship business. What happens when there are fewer and fewer professionals with whom to have a relationship?

It’s certainly not incumbent upon PR pros to ensure that journalists love their jobs, bnd the newspaper industry isn’t getting any healthier, but if journalism isn’t a reliable option for even Rob Kuznia, can it really be a reliable option for public relations to help tell their stories?


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