Opinion: PROs can capitalise on journalists' woes

Talks between the BBC and the National Union of Journalists this week appear to have achieved little, with the NUJ moving to a ballot to try and halt the proposed 2,000-plus redundancies at Auntie.

Sadly, although a strike would prove a massive headache during the election, it would take a miracle for the NUJ to stem the tide of change sweeping through the BBC.

The media, as a whole, appear to be going through a process of contraction.

Despite NUJ intervention, the Telegraph Group pushed through 90 redundancies last month, while Trinity Mirror has shed around 600 staff from the London offices of the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and The People, and its high-profile regional titles, since 2003.

Last Friday also saw an organised walkout by 90 NUJ members at the Express Group in protest at the level of proposed pay rises. The pressure is on all round. Newsrooms at national and regional level, broadcast and print, as well as consumer and B2B magazines, are all being run as tightly as possible with fewer, and often younger and less expensive, staff.

At the same time, reporters' workload continues to expand as news goes 24/7. News outlets seek to compete with the internet by generating online newsfeeds in addition to regular programming or print versions. Reporters are also increasingly swamped with information: it is no longer enough to work through the daily newspapers; there are newsfeeds to check, blogs to follow and text messages to read. And that is before a word gets written.

So pity the poor journo. But what does this mean for the equally hard-working PR professional? Well, it's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and the problems of the journalist can represent potential opportunities for good PROs. At this year's PRWeek PR and the Media conference, GQ editor Dylan Jones admitted that over half of the magazine's content is PR-driven; even Independent editor Simon Kelner said that when it comes to government and NGO coverage, staff are increasingly reliant on PROs.

Similarly, while VNRs are badmouthed by most broadcasters, the reality is that they often just don't have the crews available to go out and shoot the kind of background footage that can be supplied as a B-roll. Although journalists hate to admit it, the well-informed PRO can be invaluable, both as information filter and a source.

So, put baldly, for those opportunistic PROs who are not above a bit of ambulance chasing, NUJ watching could provide some useful pointers.

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