To say that the relationship between journalism and public relations (PR) is an easy one would be a lie. However, the shift from the former to the latter has been ongoing since the two industries have co-existed. Exceptional journalists around the world have been known to cross over to PR for varying reasons. In 2015, newspaper reporters, Rob Kuznia of The Daily Breeze in Torrance, California and Natalia Caula Hauff of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina left their jobs. This was after winning the prestigious Pulitzer Award in 2014.
Asked why, Kuznia cited financial reasons while Hauff said she wanted a break from her demanding work environment to start a family.

In Uganda, finances are the biggest reason, as journalism still remains a relatively low paying job. More often than not, journalists who make the shift are castigated and labelled as betrayers of the profession. “You are now in money,” someone may cynically comment.
In February this year, I made the switch to a PR agency after several active years in business journalism. This was not the first time I had been offered this career move. In 2015, I declined another PR position simply because I love journalism and I felt I hadn’t exhausted everything I needed to learn in the business writing field.

You see folks, journalism is addictive. There is this constant appetite for information, being ahead of the news, the analysis that creates debate among audiences, the vagaries of relationships in all walks of life that make the headlines. And yes, sometimes all you’ve got left at the end of the month after deducting rent is transport for a week or two, but when you are in the thick of telling the story, many times that doesn’t matter. You somehow survive!

So why did I leave?
It gets to a point where you stop growing both personally and professionally. And when that happens, you want to move onto the next thing that will challenge your intellect and get you out of bed every morning.

Let me add some perspective here. I was in print media. In Uganda, there are only two national dailies worth their salt. So if you work for smaller publications and you want to grow, the chances of doing so will always remain slim. The other option is to start your own business or go to the next related industry that gives you equally related opportunity for growth: PR. It is just as fast paced, you get to write all the time and it nurtures relationships just like journalism. The only difference is with PR, you are telling the story from the inside of the corporate world.
Most business news desks in Uganda have very few journalists so it is interesting that most of the most brilliant talent in the media industry have now joined PR agencies. And whilst their colleagues murmur about it over breakfast during press conferences in hotel meeting rooms, what we all should be worried about, is that no one is really nurturing new talent in journalism industry.

Journalism and PR will forever be intertwined; that’s a fact. Let us in our different capacities, work to grow and nurture where we are.
If you are still in journalism, stay passionate to the cause and ensure you grow. If you move to PR, look for an agency that presents opportunities for you to not only write about what you are passionate about, but also whose clients work in fields and topics that spark your interest.
I have been lucky to join an agency that also runs an online business news site. It has given me the opportunity to have mentors from both PR and journalism which is what I need at this point in my career.

Does it get conflicting? Yes, it certainly does sometimes. When you are used to telling the story from the outside, coping from the inside is a bit of a major transition. But what’s life without change?

About the Author: Silvia Nyambura

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