Bellmont Partners is Here to Help During COVID-19 READ MORE
Bellmont Partners is Here to Help During COVID-19 READ MORE

Pop Culture Incorporated: How TV and Movie Journalists Influenced a Generation of PR Pros

Recent­ly I took a look at PR role mod­els in pop cul­ture and came up fair­ly emp­ty. Yes, there were a few exag­ger­at­ed char­ac­ters like Saman­tha Jones from “Sex and the City.” But if they didn’t exact­ly spark a rush of peo­ple apply­ing for PR jobs, who did?

The like­ly answer: fic­tion­al jour­nal­ists. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, they were every­where, on both TV and in movies. The TV news­rooms in “Broad­cast News,” “Mur­phy Brown” and “News­Ra­dio” bus­tled with activ­i­ty. News­pa­per reporters and edi­tors in “All the President’s Men,” “The Paper” and “The Wire” broke sto­ries that mat­tered. And glossy mag­a­zines were the set­ting for a wide vari­ety of plots in a fun, inter­est­ing and appar­ent­ly hilar­i­ous work­place: The pub­li­ca­tions in “Sud­den­ly Susan,” “13 Going on 30” and “Just Shoot Me!” made mag­a­zine jour­nal­ism look like an excel­lent career choice. Even though you might find your­self work­ing along­side David Spade.

For me – and it sounds like for many of you, espe­cial­ly fel­low Min­nesotans – the top jour­nal­is­tic role mod­el dur­ing our for­ma­tive years was some­one who could turn the world on with her smile: TV pro­duc­er Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” I’m sure she res­onat­ed even more for us in the Bold North because WJM was based in Min­neapo­lis. While that was a fic­tion­al sta­tion, the show’s real-life loca­tions made many of us think of Mary, Lou, Ted, Mur­ray and the oth­ers any time we drove by the apart­ment com­plex fea­tured in the open­ing cred­its or threw our hat in the air as we strolled down Nicol­let Mall. Don’t lie – you’ve done it.

Ear­ly on, I was going to be a print reporter. I was edi­tor of my high school and col­lege news­pa­pers, but it wasn’t until I land­ed col­lege intern­ships at WCCO Radio and KARE-11 in the Twin Cities that I changed course. Before head­ing into PR, I worked as a TV reporter in Eau Claire, Wis­con­sin (check out the pho­to of that young lad from when George H.W. Bush was pres­i­dent), and, fol­low­ing in Mary Richards’ foot­steps, a pro­duc­er in the Twin Cities. I guess I shouldn’t be too sur­prised I loved all three: print, broad­cast and PR. As an ambivert, I craved the dynam­ic, in-the-spot­light world of broad­cast jour­nal­ism, but also felt com­fort­able with embrac­ing the stereo­typ­i­cal “ink-stained-wretch” life of a print jour­nal­ist. I am both of those things. And so is PR, which deft­ly com­bines both of those areas, some­times over the course of a few minutes.

Who else man­aged to bridge both of those worlds? Cer­tain­ly a few real-life men­tors and friends, not the least of whom is for­mer Min­neapo­lis Star edi­tor and WCCO-TV reporter and anchor Dave Nim­mer. But also a notable fic­tion­al one: Lou Grant, who ran the WJM news­room then became city edi­tor at the Los Ange­les Tri­bune in the dra­ma “Lou Grant” (RIP, Ed Asner). They’re both great exam­ples that a jour­nal­ist was a jour­nal­ist, no mat­ter where they worked.

Now many of us work in PR. It’s no sur­prise that a large num­ber of cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tors were once jour­nal­ists. The skills in print, broad­cast and dig­i­tal jour­nal­ism all car­ry over: We’re curi­ous mul­ti-taskers, cre­ative dot-con­nec­tors and word nerds. We’re good with a dead­line, adap­tive and skep­ti­cal. We’re a lot of things, and we put those var­ied inter­ests and skills to work every day telling stories.

So, thanks for the inspi­ra­tion, Mary, Lou and the mul­ti­tudes of oth­er pop-cul­ture jour­nal­ists on the big and small screens. You gave many of us in the PR and news worlds the con­fi­dence to get into the busi­ness – and to believe we’re gonna make it after all.

Leave a Reply

Baby Yoda stands on rocks
Pop Culture Incorporated: Empathy, Leaders Need
October 8, 2021
The Building Blocks of Agility in Communications
September 22, 2021
What’s Brewing with Libby Johnson, Director of Marketing, Gravie
September 22, 2021
People stand together in front of fireplace
Cultivating a Winning Culture
August 25, 2021
Retro television sits on table
Pop Culture Incorporated: PR on TV
August 24, 2021
People sit on couch during newscast
Working Smarter: Four Tips for Maximizing Media Relations Efforts
August 20, 2021