According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were roughly 243,000 public relations specialists employed in 2006. The BLS projects there will be more than 286,000 PR specialists by 2016, an increase of 43,000. In addition, there were roughly 50,000 public relations managers employed in 2006, estimated to increase to 58,000 by 2016 – an increase of 8,400. Overall, PR employment is expected to grow by 12 percent or more through 2016.
Contrast the growth of public relations employment with that in the media sector. The BLS estimates there were 67,000 News Analysts, Reporters and Correspondents employed in 2006, expected to increase to only 68,000 by 2016 – an increase of roughly 1,200 jobs or 2%. Of course, this data was published before the recent wave of media downsizing and layoffs. Over the course of the past couple of months, we’ve seen an alarming number of layoffs in the media. A recent post on StopBigMedia.com highlights some of the deepest cuts we’ve seen:
- Star-Ledger, the largest newspaper in New Jersey, cut its staff by 40 percent
- The Los Angeles Times laid off another 75 journalists – since 2001, the paper has cut its staff from 1,200 to 660
- Gannett, a company that owns 85 daily newspapers, announced it would cut its staff by 10 percent – roughly 3,000 employees
- Time Warner Inc., the world’s largest magazine publisher, plans to cut 600 or 6 percent of its magazine employees
- Media News Group, one of the largest newspaper owners in the country, plans to consolidate copy-editing desks at 54 newspapers to one location
- The Project for Excelence in Journalism estimates that newspapers have cut about 10 percent of newsroom jobs – 5,500 positions – in the past 10 years
- UNITY: Journalists of Color reported recently that 2,415 newsroom jobs have been cut since September
The list of cuts goes on and on. An interactive map of newspaper layoffs has a running total of many of the recent cuts – estimated to be in excess of 3,300 jobs so far in 2009.
It’s safe to assume that employment for journalists is actually on the decline, data that will most likely be reflected in the next wave of research by the BLS.
It’s no wonder that journalists are overwhelmed in their jobs. Even if the BLS numbers hold true, there are almost 4 public relations specialists for every journalist working out there. Assuming that most PR specialists engage in some form of media outreach, that’s a lot of inbound information for any one group to handle. Add to this the range of products and services designed to make mass communication more efficient for PR specialists sending information to media outlets, and it’s very alarming. There are few products and services designed to help media professionals manage and process this inflow of information (there are none that we know of), so they will continue to be overloaded for the near future.
Add to this fact that journalists are being asked to do more work than ever – a combination of smaller teams and a rising demand for content across existing and emerging channels, and it can’t be a great time to be working in a newsroom environment.
What solutions are on the horizon that can help journalists tip the scales in their favor? Will journalists just continue to tune-out PR pros so they can focus on the tasks at hand? Or is the problem really not as bad as the data suggest? What do you think?