Several months ago, the most prominent orchestra in the world, the Vienna Philharmonic, came to the college where I work for a rare performance. Within the larger event were smaller stories to be told, which is almost always the case. This time I had a good one to tell: there’s only one American member of the Vienna Philharmonic, and he happens to be from Tennessee. Several of his friends and former teachers were able to travel to Kentucky to see this performance, friends who otherwise couldn’t have gotten tickets to Carnegie Hall in New York, the only other venue in North America in which the Vienna Philharmonic has ever performed, or in Austria, where the waiting list to see the orchestra perform is years long.
It’s a pretty great personal interest story, and I pitched it to several of Tennessee’s major newspapers. The Knoxville News Sentinel was interested because the Vienna Phil member went to college in Knoxville, but they couldn’t afford to send someone to cover it. Damn. If I was interested, however, I could write the story on a freelance basis. Bingo! PR pro turned back into a journalist in an instant. My undergraduate degree is in journalism communication, and I was editor of the campus newspaper several semesters.
Thus is the nature of the PR profession. Several weeks ago I spoke to a journalism class full of undergraduates about the benefits of a journalism major to a PR career. This is a prime example. It’s too easy to slip into PR verse: fluffy, lovely words and nothing but glowing things to say about your organization. I was able to re-edit my story enough so that when the published version came out, hardly a thing was changed. Had my freelance submission required tons of editing, it might have been scrapped. Not only was it not scrapped, but the story won a first-place feature-writing award recently, thanks to the great value of its content.
For the most part, it’s journalists who delve into the PR field, not PR folks who delve into the journalism field. Which helps illustrate the point that choosing a journalism path early in your career doesn’t mean you can’t leverage that knowledge and experience into a career in a different aspect of communications. In fact, it’s an excellent and ideal foundation. And isn’t putting yourself on the other side of the issue and being able to understand those you work with the key to a successful career in any field?