FACT: PR People Earn More Than Reporters

By Matter

Every reporter and PR person knows that there exists a love/hate relationship between the two factions.

Reporters get annoyed by impersonal, spammy, spray-and-pray pitches. They don’t like being pestered by pushy PR people paid to peddle people and products. Cutesy alliteration grates on their nerves.

PR folks, on the other hand, sometimes find reporters rude, unresponsive and occasionally sneaky, such as when they agree to a client briefing based on topic X, and immediately pivot to topic Y once the PR lead makes the intros. Classic sandbagging. Then there’s the whole problem of embargoes – as in, they’re rarely honored anymore, as most PR agencies have learned (and been burned) the hard way.

But there may be something more to the bad blood, perhaps unconsciously, on the part of reporters. This new wrinkle in the rift hadn’t occurred to me until my recent tweet got a reaction from a business/tech reporter that gave me pause.

Here’s the exchange I had with a reporter named Celeste:

Now, I don’t know who Celeste writes for (as I don’t know her personally) but she was pretty clear that newspaper reporters in particular aren’t necessarily raking in the dough. This isn’t surprising, given the major upheaval in the print newspaper business in the last 15 years or so. In fact, “those in the newspaper and publishing industry make $39,130 on average,” according to Eric Strauss of DemandMedia , who wrote about the Bureau of Labor and statistics data from 2011.

Mr. Strauss goes on to write that “The average annual salary for a reporter is $43,640 a year or $20.98 an hour … [meanwhile] … The top 10 percent of reporters earn $75,420 or more a year, while the bottom 10 percent earn as little as $20,000 a year or less.”

Yowch. The bottom 10 percent of reporters brings in an income that hovers on the poverty line for a family of three, were that the only source of income.

Juxtapose that against the earning power of PR people. According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), there’s really not much of a contest. PR people far outpace reporters on the salary front:

What this data shows is that even fairly junior PR pros often earn as much or more as seasoned journalism veterans. And those who rise through the ranks of PR agencies can easily earn double the salary of tenured reporters in the highest paying jobs.

I was a hardscrabble general assignment reporter back in the day, working for a couple of mid-sized dailies and occasionally writing columns for outfits like the Boston Globe. I made the move to “the dark side” in 2000, when it became clear to me that the pathway to a higher income was hardly assured. In fact, it would be the exception.

Fast forward to today. If I hadn’t switched sides and was a reporter with 15+ years under my belt, I think I’d feel a twinge of annoyance when a fresh-from-college PR-type earning more than me peppers my inbox with SPAM and then follows-up with five phone calls and three more emails asking me if I got the original email. [Note, Matter Communications does not practice nor tolerate this low form of PR. Were we to discover this type of nonsense within our ranks we would move swiftly and forcefully to eradicate the problem.]

I’m curious to know what reporters/PR folks think about the uneven earning potential of their profession and their counterparts.

Does the disparity contribute to the tension between the two groups who undoubtedly need each other to thrive?

Does the data surprise you, as it did us?