A university lecturer, who will lead a new undergraduate degree course combining PR and journalism training, has said she “doesn’t see a divide” between the two disciplines.
Sara Eyre, a former press officer, said: “The skills that I learned as a journalist do adapt well, so it just seems natural that they should bedfellow. They have a close link and that’s what we’ve witnessed.”
The first set of students will enrol on the three-year BA (Hons) Journalism with Public Relations course at the University of Salford, in Manchester, from next month.
When Press Gazette reported on the new course earlier this month, it prompted widespread criticism from journalists on Twitter defending the so-called “separation of church and state”.
Hicham Yezza, editor-in-chief at Ceasefire Magazine tweeted: “Sad – and revealing – to see journalism and PR openly treated as co-disciplines, when they are in fact polar opposites.
“As Orwell (apocryphally) put it: ‘Journalism is printing what someone else doesn’t want printed; everything else is public relations.'”
Eyre admitted feedback had been “mixed”, adding: “There are different opinions, but we want more people to think: ‘Yes, this is something that’s good for our students to broaden their horizon and widen the options that they’ll be faced with in the future’.
“The emphasis has to be on the students – what they demand shapes what we do. As well as evolving and changing, it’s opening up more opportunities and wider options. They can use their skills in a variety of industries.”
She said the course will breakdown as roughly two-thirds journalism and one-third PR, with four modules of journalism and two of PR.
Eyre said she and her team of lecturers had noticed over the years how skills they were teaching journalism students adapt “very well” to the skills they teach in PR.
She said a PR module was already being taught as part of the university’s undergraduate programme.
“I’ve been teaching it for 12 years and it’s something that’s been of interest to our students and has been getting increasingly popular,” she told Press Gazette.
“What we also noticed is a lot of the job opportunities that were coming in from industry links relate well to the creation skills that you’d expect to see in public relations.
“The majority of our teaching team have been journalists and a lot of us, myself included, have worked in the PR industry. You get journalists who usually go on to work in communications or PR roles.”
Only ten students have so far registered for the inaugural course, which Eyre says is “quite small” in comparison to the 110 students joining the existing BA (Hons) Journalism (Multimedia).
Eyre said she “recognises” there are differences between PR and journlaism, but wants to “try and identify the areas we can work on that we can offer to our students to make sure their employability is enhanced”.
She added: “[The students] would be prepared for the jobs market that will be greeting them when they graduate”
A former Coronation Street press officer, Eyre will work alongside former Sunday People showbiz editor and publicist Debbie Manley in delivering new the course.
Picture: University of Salford