BELTWAY: Ex-journalists: start polishing your resumes! PR will be for psychologists and statisticians

At a recent meeting of the Counselors’ Academy of the PRSA, a prescient American PR executive (OK, it was my boss, Tom Hoog of Hill & Knowlton), gave us all some serious thoughts on the information revolution.

At a recent meeting of the Counselors’ Academy of the PRSA, a prescient American PR executive (OK, it was my boss, Tom Hoog of Hill & Knowlton), gave us all some serious thoughts on the information revolution.

At a recent meeting of the Counselors’ Academy of the PRSA, a

prescient American PR executive (OK, it was my boss, Tom Hoog of Hill &

Knowlton), gave us all some serious thoughts on the information

revolution.



He began with some reflections on recent journalism history. Somewhere

in the 1950s, folks began seriously watching the evening news on

television, and the decline of the afternoon/evening newspaper began,

until today they have vanished, along with the ’Extra.’ Who wants to

read something - even if just a few hours old -when it can be seen live,

as it happens?



And just as the evening paper has died, the evening TV news shows are

moribund. Audiences are down; more ominously, so is total audience

share, and the demographics are skewed -the declines are faster and

larger among younger viewers.



The conclusion seems clear. Just as our generation began to ignore

newspapers and magazines as sources of news in favor of TV

(interestingly, though, radio audiences have increased over this time),

today’s younger viewers are leaving TV for the Internet as a place for

news and information. Local news shows are beginning to lose their

audience; recent surveys put the loss at 40% among younger viewers.



So the progression from newspapers to TV to online is accelerating.



It took nearly 50 years to establish and maintain the hegemony of TV

over news dissemination, especially among the cherished 20- to

49-year-old age group, but the dominance of the Internet may occur in

less than half that time.



Yankelovich surveys show that people feel there is ’too much

information’ and they wish it could be limited to what they need. People

want to be ’quickly and painlessly’ made more knowledgeable and better

educated.



So far, there is no way to do that, but the Internet offers ways to seem

better informed - or at least to know more. Internet chat rooms offer

infinitely more up-to-the-minute information than either network anchors

or press columnists used to provide. Alas, it’s almost all wrong.



But customers, nevertheless, will be in charge of the business

relationship, whether through individually customized news summaries -

from ’All the News That’s Fit to Print’ to ’All the News I Think I Need’

- or simply by ignoring the ’gatekeeper-anchors’ and using one’s own

access to the news and news sources.



Either way, Hoog concluded, it calls for more PR recruits skilled in

psychology, marketing and statistics, and fewer in communications and

traditional journalism. Ladies and gentlemen, start polishing those

resumes.



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