Journalism existed only as a result of management's commercial ability to sell advertising - that was the argument throughout the bars of old Fleet Street.
In the days of advertising plenty and a print and broadcast media duopoly, the debate was academic. Only now has it become real. Advertisements have dried up, particularly for national newspapers. Journalistic staff are being slashed. The talk is of sales and closure of titles. Across the board, staff of Sunday and daily papers are merging. Pagination is shrinking.
The Observer, one of the UK's strongest Sunday brands, has just eight dedicated writing staff and a few executives since the merging of its staff pool with that of The Guardian. At Trinity Mirror, whose share price has plummeted dramatically, a reduced staff is expected to work across both daily and Sunday papers.
All this represents a potentially seismic change across the media landscape. Many analysts believe that much of the advertising that has fallen away from print may never return. Instead, they suggest renewed ad spend after the current slowdown is likely to migrate online.
They point to the internet as principally a broadcast, rather than a print, medium. This convergence of online and broadcast, runs the argument, will inevitably leave traditional print media isolated and outmoded as a means of communication.
More sanguine commentators point to the UK's historical addiction to newspapers, with Britons still buying about 11 million national papers daily. Newspapers and magazines are also developing their online platforms in a battle to maintain market share.
PROs must, of course, constantly adapt campaigns to embrace new media. But, for many clients, a story extolling their brand in a newspaper or magazine remains a more valuable sales tool than a transient web link. The coexistence of new and old media gives creative publicists the opportunity to increase their value with campaigns that resonate across both.
Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.