Back in 2004, public relations specialists outnumbered journalists about 3 to 1 in the United States. Today, as steady jobs in journalism disappear, it's roughly 5 to 1. One reason more Americans are taking home a PR paycheck? It certainly pays a lot better than working in journalism.
From Pew Research:
In 2013, according to BLS data, public relations specialists earned a median annual income of $54,940 compared with $35,600 for reporters. In other words, journalists on average earn just 65% of what those in public relations earn. That is a greater income gap than in 2004 when journalists were paid 71 cents of every dollar earned by those in public relations ($43,830 versus $31,320).
Pew Research points out that aside from the money, this decline in the number of journalists and rise in PR workers has a lot to do with the digital tools that companies have at their disposal. Who needs to court journalists at The Atlantic or The New York Times to cover their companies and organizations when they can just set up a Twitter feed to talk with their desired audience directly?
Agencies and companies are now able to reach out directly to the public in any number of ways and are hiring public relations specialists to help them do so. There are ways this can be helpful to the public, such as being able to offer updates in real time about virus outbreaks and background reports on the risks associated with it. One concern it raises when looked at alongside the shrinking newsrooms is the greater difficulty reporters have vetting information from outside sources.
Even the CIA has a Twitter account these days — and digital media outlets seem to think that's just fantastic. See, the CIA's just like us!
But if you're really looking for the particular audience that only the Times or Gawker Media can provide, there's always sponsored content. Either way, someone working in PR is getting paid. How soon before the CIA buys an advertorial on io9 insisting that Project MKUltra was just a sci-fi movie tie-in?
Image: Boy selling newspapers in Wichita, Kansas in 1947 via Getty