Journalism v. Public Relations

A little over a year ago, when applying to college, I had no doubt in my mind that I would apply as a Journalism major. My top college choices were picked based on their Journalism programs and I could think of no other way of going about my college career. Every school said that they have an easy method of switching majors if I ever desired to, and many also suggested an undecided major for the first year or two, just in case. However, I was adamant in my decision: Journalism was the major for me.

Fast-forward to the end of my first semester. My mind has not changed at all in regards to my desire to find a career that involves writing, communication, and, more importantly, social media. I have, however, questioned Journalism. Taking Communication 101 exposed me to all areas within Boston University’s College of Communication. While the Journalism portion of the course was interesting, I was also very intrigued by Public Relations (PR). The career fields in communication are at a very strange but fascinating point, changing almost daily with new technologies and emerging trends.

With Journalism in mind, I set off to join the Daily Free Press, BU’s largest student-run newspaper, as soon as I could. Completely indecisive as to what I wanted to write about, I eventually went with technology and was assigned to the business section after discussing my interest in smartphone applications. My first (and so far only) article, which can be found here, discussed smartphone applications developed in and for the city of Boston. This is not so different from the writing I did in high school while serving as an editor for the school magazine, as I often covered technology news. While I am proud of myself for writing this article, as it is longer and took more research than most of the smaller articles I have done in the past, I can not seem to picture myself doing such work as a career. The rules of journalistic style and working as a journalist just did not feel like something I could get used to; perhaps on the side or on a smaller scale, but not a focus of my life. Doing such real journalistic work made me realize that I jumped into my Journalism major with a skewed vision of what the field actually involves. A thought then occurred to me: while writing many articles throughout high school, was I really writing an article, or could my writing almost be considered a press release? Looking back on some of my better work, I found that I wrote a Consumer Electronics Show (CES) recap that could show up on their own blog, a few articles about Apple’s newest products that could almost be slightly reworded into press releases, and other tidbits that more resembled blog posts than articles.

In regards to the title of this post, I want to say that I am in no way putting the two majors “against” each other; I’m using the term “versus” loosely, as more of a comparison. Whether I change my major or not, I will likely incorporate elements of both into my work. That being said, Journalism and PR, in the way I view them, maybe be easily confused. When I decided on Journalism as my major, I defined it as “identifying a lack of knowledge in society, researching the topic, and presenting it in a way that the public would understand.” While this fits for Journalism, it is very vague. After further consideration, I looked at this definition again from the eyes of a company. Identify what consumers should know about your service or product and why they should know it, establish how it applies to their needs/wants, explain/advertise it to them in a way that makes sense, then continue with this service to improve their experience. While this is still a bit vague, it sounds more like what I am looking to do.

Overall, my main interest while researching opportunities in both Journalism and PR has been social media and how it can be used to improve the image of a company and connect consumers to the people behind the products that they buy, or will potentially buy after given a little more information. I have begun looking at job postings and find that the ads that appeal to me most are completely PR driven: managing social media and working with customers and clients to improve their experience with a company. Reading articles on websites such as Mashable has been very interesting, describing PR trends and applying various applications such as FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter, and more to brand a company’s online image.

Although this has begun making more and more sense to me, changing majors is still a decision I will ultimately have to be sure of. Fortunately I am still early in my college career and still have plenty of time. Looking at required courses for PR, however, has proven much more exciting than the Journalism track, although BU’s creation of Online Journalism classes was a fantastic idea. The decision will be made soon enough; until then, I still have plenty to research and learn about in communication.

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One thought on “Journalism v. Public Relations

  1. There is a one-way street between the journalism and PR. If you study PR, you can’t really go into journalism. HOWEVER, if you study journalism, you can always switch over to PR because you have the skills a PR specialist could use.

    With your interest in social media, PR might be best for you. I think you’d get a lot out of taking New Media and PR (CM443). It was a great class, and you learn a lot about how social media has influenced today’s business.

    Hope this helps. Good luck!

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