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What Led You to PR or Journalism?

how did you end up in pr or journalism?Time for some reminiscing. Think back (for some of you, think way, way back). What led you to PR or journalism? Did you know you wanted to work in PR or journalism before college, or did you discover the field later in life? If the latter, what did you do before?

If I’m asking you to share your story, it’s only fair I share mine. I wrote for my high school newspaper and loved it. I edited our class yearbook in high school and loved it. I even spent my free time at home working on an underground newspaper (much harder in the days of typewriters) – which I also loved.

Despite all this love, I decided to major in Criminal Justice, Economic Crime Investigation (ECI for short) at Utica College of Syracuse University. When I made this decision, I had no idea “economic crime investigation” involved so much math. While all the accounting classes have come in handy over the years, it wasn’t for me and I switched my major to Public Relations & Journalism at the end of my sophomore year.

So what led me to PR and journalism? Less math. I literally flipped through the course catalog and found the major with the least math requirements for graduation. I was also interested in the “Journalism,” “Advertising,” and “Public Speaking” courses listed as core requirements. At the time I changed my major to “Public Relations & Journalism” (known affectionately as “PR/J” at Utica College), I had no idea what “public relations” was. Lucky for me, this major stuck and the rest – as they say – is history.

Then again, I have my doubts about whether I would have stuck with PR or journalism at a big school. I was lucky to be at a small school (most of my classes had about 20 students in them). We had fun professors who genuinely cared about the quality of education in the program and gave us a lot of practical, real-world experience. They made learning fun.

At the time, Utica College was the only school to mix students majoring in journalism and public relations together. Some majored in one or the other, while others like me majored in both. It doesn’t seem so weird today, but back then majoring in public relations and journalism sounded like an oxymoron. And you’ll note, this blog is about public relations and journalism – so the influence of Utica College of Syracuse University has clearly stuck.

One of my favorite memories of my “Introduction to Public Relations” course was having to pitch stories to other students. Our professor would brink in this old red phone and make PR majors pitch the journalism majors – in front of the class of course. Then he would turn the tables on us and make the journalism majors pitch the PR majors. We didn’t realize it at the time, but that one class exercise would be among the most practical preparation for our career.

While I could talk all day about the glory days, let’s go back to my original question… how did you end up in PR or journalism? Did you go to college for it, or did you switch careers later on? Did you start in PR and end up in journalism (or vice-versa)? Tell us your story!

(Image Credit: Forward by -= Bruce Berrien =- / Flickr)

About Jeremy Porter

Jeremy Porter is co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a lively blog about public relations and journalism topics.

  • http://virallyapp.com Alex Clifford

    Great article Jeremy – it’s an interesting tale of how you got into it!

    I came into writing/journalism by experimentation. I started a school newspaper while I was at school and wrote for local magazines… then as soon as finished my A-Levels it led me straight into a copywriting/blogging/journalism job.

    • http://blog.journalistics.com Jeremy Porter

      Glad to hear I’m not alone Alex. Thanks for sharing your story as well.

  • Clara Persand

    I studied social communications and journalism. Like you, I wanted a career with no math. I hated math all my life and when I was in high school I decided I was going to study a career with no numbers. Plus I loved to write and do research so I went for journalism. My first job was in journalism in a magazine and then I switched to public relations. I feel grateful for having the opportunity to work in both areas of my career that I love. This article really brings back memories. Thank you for writing this.

    • http://blog.journalistics.com Jeremy Porter

      Math haters unite! Actually, I’ve come to like math more over the years. It’s hard to do what we do without math these days – everything is tied to analytics. I’ll never feel the way about math that I do about writing, but I’ve warmed up to the former.

  • http://www.kelseymcbridepr.com Kelsey McBride

    Thanks for sharing your story. I did 2 unpaid PR internships in college and fell in love with the field. Internships are a great way to learn about the field, develop connections, and determine the right career path. I also wrote for my college newspaper, but didn’t love journalism as much as PR.

    • http://blog.journalistics.com Jeremy Porter

      I couldn’t agree more. I tell any students that will listen to do as many internships as they can before graduation – it’s a great way to test drive jobs and get a true idea of what they might want to do after college. Thanks for your comment!

  • http://ansieh.tumblr.com Alexandra Sieh

    Always fun to hear another’s story on their entrance into journalism! Originally an intended English major (I always wanted to be a writer), I realized publishing may not have too many job opportunities. As I sat registering for classes at the start of my freshman year of college, I thought there would be more job opportunity if I went into another major. So (ironically) I selected a news/editorial concentration in journalism. With that choice led to my working at the school newspaper. It was there I learned everything I could about this field. I fell in love with journalism – especially reporting and design – and have worked in it ever since!

    • http://blog.journalistics.com Jeremy Porter

      Thanks for sharing your story – I’m happy to hear you stuck with it and do what you love.

  • http://www.launch.it Trace Cohen

    I went to Syracuse also but studied entrepreneurship and marketing. As a sophomore I started my first company (brandyourself.com) and as the CMO led all marketing and did some PR as we needed some publicity and social media management. When I graduated, I started working with my father, who has been doing PR for 30+ years, doing PR for tech startups in NYC. After two years, we launched our new company Launch.it together as a PR news platform and I’ve been running it and manage most of the PR responsibilities.

  • http://www.savvy-inc.com Dennis Bailey

    My story: although I was a voracious reader of newspapers, I really hadn’t given much thought to the profession of journalism at the time I entered college. In fact, I really didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to do with my life. All I really wanted to do was play in my rock ‘n roll band, but I was smart enough to know it wouldn’t pay the bills. Then one day, I overheard an upperclassman talking about wanting to transfer into the university’s Journalism Department so he could become a sports writer. I didn’t even know there was a journalism department, but the next day I paid a visit to the Department’s chairman and told him I was ready to become a journalism major. He looked at me, puzzled, and explained that I couldn’t declare a major until my junior year (I was a freshman at the time). But he did offer me a work-study job delivering the student newspaper around campus (with Stephen King’s brother-in-law), and the rest as they say is history.

  • Dionne

    I decided I wanted to be a journalist when I was 15 years old. Took the major at Maryland, interned four places, then got a job at the Annapolis daily right out of college. Went onto the AP in Richmond and Atlanta. Went back to a small newspaper when management changed dramatically at my bureau.

    Some time around 2010, I started thinking about new ways to write online. That became an interest in being a web editor, which became me designing small websites and writing content, which became me learning how to make that content perform which ultimately became me heading into web marketing. The more and more I started digging into SEO, analytics, paid, etc. the less and less I cared about writing. Currently, I write blogs and other material as part of linkbuilding. But bylines? I don’t “do” that anymore.

    Someone asked me today (as they often do) whether I would go back to journalism. NOPE. I feel like I activated a new part of my brain and I love it.

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  • Grace Freeberg

    Your story is great!

    I wanted to be a doctor–even to the point of taking extra science classes in high school–and then somehow became the Editor-in-Chief of my nationally ranked high school yearbook. To this day I still think that was a fluke. That lead me to my love for writing, which lead me to become an English major during my first semester of college. The students in the english major completely turned me off to being a writer–I could not see myself rarely speaking and never seeing daylight–so I switched to Journalism after only half of a semester and discovered PR, which was, in my opinion, the perfect balance of speaking and writing. I am now about a year away from graduating with my degree in Journalism & PR. I am also interning with a digital marketing and event coordinating firm in Orange County and I love it!

  • http://www.mediasourcetv.com/ Allison

    I decided that since I talked a lot and was pretty good at explaining things I should go into journalism. I ended up majoring in it in college and specializing in broadcasting. Once I did my first internship at a TV station I noticed that my control issues would make me a great producer. :-) I spent 10 years as a TV producer, and about a year ago switched to media relations, which allows me to still have a hand in TV without all of the extra stress that came along with working in a newsroom. (Also makes me better at my job–since I had so much experience in a newsroom!) I love my decision to switch!

  • http://about.me/shirley.onan Shirley O’Nan

    I am attending Bowling Green State University located in Bowling Green, Ohio. Your university story sounds very close to mine! Except, my original major was Theater, but that shortly changed. When I wanted to switch career paths I also looked for a degree that would use very little math skills, but lots of people skills… so that is how I stumbled upon public relations. At my university the Journalism and Public Relations majors reside in one department just as in your university. My first three years of classes were spent learning the basics of journalism right along side those in the print/broadcast specializations. This May I will graduate and as I look back on my education I think my school’s Journalism degree program (specialization in PR) has prepared me well to enter the “real world.” Knowing how to write and pitch to journalists are two of the most important skills a PR specialist should have in their tool box. Thank you for writing this post – it was very insightful and inspiring.