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Journalism versus Communications: it’s time to kill this attitude

Posted by Sarah Mitchell on 20th September , 2022 in The Write Fit
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Last week I got involved in one of those debates about journalism versus communications. I thought we were past all that but apparently not. The premise is always the same – journalism is pure and comms is dirty. As usual, comms was used as a catch-all term for any writing that’s not “journalism”, including public relations and content marketing.

Content, it seems, is the bitter end of the writing road.

I used to get fired up about these things, but now I can barely manage an eye roll.

Despite the shade, the lament by traditional journalists is always the same. There are no jobs. It’s hard to make a living if you do manage to snag a position. No-one appreciates their brilliance. Only journalists can act as the fourth estate.

Give me a break.

Content is as good as you want to make it. Brands have figured out there’s competitive advantage in original, high-quality content. Many organisations are filling a gap brought about by a shrinking investment in traditional media.

Brands are investing in content and the best of it is no different than what journalists have always done. Last week I wrote about:

  • Housing insecurity for older people
  • Investing in the carbon credit markets
  • The role of waste management in climate change
  • Industrial conveying
  • Modular construction techniques
  • Governance around environmental data.

Not a single one of these articles was pitching or selling a product or service. Most of them ran between 800 and 1200 words, the equivalent of a two- or three-page feature story.

I also did a fair bit of editing of white papers and thought leadership pieces on topics like:

  • The evolution of the global wine industry
  • The challenges facing miners with battery minerals
  • The impact indoor working space has on health and wellbeing.

Sure, most of my work has a call to action at the end of the story but that’s not what guides the story or the writing. I read dozens of reports, I interviewed people, I found an angle and I developed the copy. I worked with an editor on some of it and all of it was sent for proofreading. Then I filed my copy and moved on to the next story.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s journalism.

The biggest difference between what I do and what is being touted as pure journalism is the pay. And the opportunity to write. There’s a lot more of both in content marketing.

If you ask me, there’s nothing wrong with that and I don’t care if you call it content or comms. To be fair to all us content writers, traditional journalism hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory lately.

Dan Hatch wrote a wonderful piece after he made the transition from working in traditional newsrooms to becoming a content marketer. If you want his opinion, you can read it on our Global Copywriting blog. Check out “There Really Is Life After Journalism, I Promise”.

Sarah Mitchell
20 September 2022


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