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PR vs. Journalism: What’s the Real Difference, Anyways?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hofstra chapter.


That question in the title? Yeah, we want to know too. 


College is a confusing enough time, with picking majors, long assignments and big decisions about one’s future. So for anyone working towards a career in the communications field, or maybe just a little bit curious about these two job types, this article is for you. 


Communications is a massively popular field amongst students. Who doesn’t love a little healthy communication? Unfortunately, when dealing with jobs in this industry it’s not as easy as that. We sat down with Kristal Brent Zook, a professor in Journalism, and Jefferey Morosoff, a chair in the communications school and professor of Public Relations who both work at Hofstra University, to clear up any misconceptions about these two. 

A wrapped up newspaper with a picture of Joe Biden on it
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When asked about the profession of journalism and how it was different from the PR profession, Kristal Zook was quick to mention that “there’s a huge difference in terms of the ultimate end goal.” She went on to describe the end goal for a journalist which is “to give the reader the information they need, with no sort of investment with any source or client.” 

Journalism summarized into one word is objectivity. 

Readers who may be future journalists should note that one of the factors, if not the most important one, is serving the public good. To complete this task is to cover all sides of the issue and then present clear and accurate information. Public consumption on content is something Zook branched off to say, “this is where media literacy comes into play. If we don’t understand what we’re reading,” she said, “or how to differentiate the two- it can be really dangerous.” To prevent the confusion between the two amongst readers it’s pertinent for journalists to remind themselves to include all voices in their work. 

Public Relations 

Right off the bat, what’s interesting to know for the public relations field is that it can be included in the communications industry, as well as the management and marketing industry. Jefferey Morosoff acknowledged that “both professions are in the business of storytelling,” he said, however, “PR is storytelling on behalf of a client, a company or an individual.” When diving deeper into the conversation about PR Morosoff revealed how much of a balancing act the public relations profession is. “Sometimes PR professionals are caught in the middle between getting information out that contributes to public knowledge and having to advocate and protect their company or client.” This quote is just a snapshot into the complexity of this field, and Morosoff emphasized the constant fight to shed misconceptions that because they’re working for someone they spin the facts and are not honest with the public. In fact, PR representatives are able to give a lot of useful information to journalists if their company or client is involved in that story. 


Still wondering what exactly you should be looking for in your search for jobs in both of these careers? We’re hurt you don’t know we got you covered. The job search is stressful, in fact, stress involuntarily envelopes the body even when seeing the words job search. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when coming across job positions: 


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What would my job duties be? 

Is this a news outlet? 

Is this a publication? 

Is the content I’m producing objective or promotional? 

Chances are if you’re creating objective content that caters to multiple interests or sides without any promotion- that’s a journalism position. If you’re working for someone and the content is about them, whether it’s through written content or social media, that would be PR. 


All in all, there was some pretty enlightening stuff about both journalism and PR that we all learned together (I’m proud of us!) 

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Now take this with you when you go and hold onto it forever like a special locket your grandma gave you: 


When thinking about each entity Journalism and PR and their unique relationship to the media and its communications- 

Journalism often is the media and represents a big chunk of how information is transferred to the public. 

Public relations operates through the media, whether it’s through earned or owned media (hey look at that new terms to add to the vocabulary!)


Now you can relish in knowing the difference between these two communications worlds. Help out with that media literacy we were talking about and tell a friend would ya?

Happy communicating, and (dare we say it) job hunting! 

Kaitlyn Bancroft is a junior at Hofstra University in New York, following her passion to become a journalist. She enjoys eating chipotle and binge-watching as she procrastinates on assignments.