Before joining K2 & Co., I worked at my campus paper, The Daily Iowan. I worked there for about two years, and there was a joke that we told about the PR managers we often had contact with. If journalists were the “Light Side,” then PR was the “Dark Side” of communications. While we did have that joke, the managing teams we did work with, we all liked. They got us sources that a college paper otherwise wouldn’t get, they retrieved data that would’ve been unreachable to us, and in many ways, they were our saving grace in times when we were nearly forced to kill a story due to lack of information.
I worked with Politifact during my time at The Daily Iowan, and the amount of fact-checking that goes into every sentence someone writes was insane. Citations for citations, and even after that you needed your Politifact story to survive a tribunal of three other people who looked over your story with a fine tooth comb. The regular stories I wrote for the paper weren’t put under that amount of scrutiny, but I still had to justify every word for every article. While I admire the work journalists put into their stories, it quickly became clear to me that this line of work wasn’t something I could see myself doing for very long.
The first time I was told to write up a press release for a client, including a statement from the client, I asked my manager “Where’s the statement? I need to add it in”. Can you imagine my shock when I was told that I was supposed to write the statement and get it approved by the person being cited? I know that’s part of PR, but it was a jarring change from having to review interview recordings over and over again to make sure my source said exactly what we were publishing in writing, just in case they didn’t actually say “of course” vs “obviously”.
Despite what some may believe, journalism and PR aren’t as different as they may appear, but I didn’t fully understand that until I gained experience working on both sides. Both require making sure your phrasing is just right to avoid misunderstandings, fact-checking, speaking directly with the public to get your story across and everything else that comes with a writing-heavy job. If I could tell young journalists what it’s like working for the “Dark Side,” I’d tell them that it’s no darker than working for a college paper.