Are journalism and PR mutually exclusive?

It’s hard to say as both fields have a lot of similarities between them.  Journalism and PR are forms of communication that illicit responses from the public to address certain issues and sway public opinion to what they feel is right. PR people also have an ethics code where like journalists “they adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth and communicating to the public.” Both also pride themselves on “the ability to communicate clearly, concisely and honestly.” But at the same time in PR, this is reserved to the parties they represent though journalists do the same when they’re writing op-eds and other stories. However, ultimately in my view despite the many intersecting parts PR is a different animal altogether than journalism.

Public relations specialists focus more of their work at event planning to boost a client’s image, how to deal with issues that threaten organizations or clients and advertisement.  Journalists focus on uncovering  issues going on around them, researching possible stories and above all else-fact check sources. There are no attempts by journalists to try and maintain a good image like PR people do by toeing the company line, and only giving out information they want the public to know. Journalism’s main goal is to uncover the truth no matter how ugly, and give voices to those who can’t speak and highlight issues going on that should be addressed. They must report the whole truth, and their job is to be objective and un-biased at all times.

In addition, PR people when writing press releases or advertising their organizations, they only report one side of the story. Journalists can not do this, and must be objective and give the opposition a chance to respond to various claims made by others in order to create an objective account of the facts and tell the whole story. They also depend on press releases created by PR people for stories, if they can’t reach experts like politicians or others who refuse to reach out to journalists for whatever reason. That being said, a PR person is in some ways practicing journalism because your disseminating information to the public, and you also can not intentionally mislead the public with the information you present as it must be sourced and be accurate. Traditional journalism is declining as newspapers are not the prime source the public gets their news from, and even when journalists cover both sides of a story one can usually tell the side that a reporter is leaning towards. It’s virtually impossible for a journalist to be completely un-biased, and therefore while it’s not something I would do, I can understand the shrinking divide of differences between the journalism and PR field.




“What I Learned from Alex Ellefson About Being a Journalist – and About Journalism.”

According to Alex Ellefson, journalists should do what one is passionate about and hopefully good things will happen. Being forced to do a topic or subject you don’t care about, hurts your ability to truly report the news in the right way and leaves one unfulfilled. When covering topics, it’s always important to put a human face on every story, and empower those actively fighting certain issues they find wrong. In all of his stories, we see Ellefson do this as he highlights issues going on with landlords, senior care facilities,etc… and what people are doing to address or fix the crises at hand. Quotes like, “I can’tbelieve the Department of Health just gave him the license and then took it away without checking into it, or “I feel that at 92, I lived a full life, it’s my time now to rest and relax and have some comfort,” give the reader an insight into what individuals are feeling and leads them to question how events like this could happen.

Here is a clear example of journalism’s true purpose, giving a voice to those who often are unable to speak out against injustice. In addition, we also learned about the landlords and how they sometimes manipulate and trick tenants into leaving apartments under the premise they’ll be renovated for them. Then when the tenants try to come back,their doors are blocked by cones, objects, etc… or the landlords sell the building to more affluent people who can pay higher rents and produce more revenue. In all of New York, this is becoming a major dilemma as long-time residents of neighborhoods are being forced out, and lack resources to fight back.

Ellefson’s work is featured in the Indypendent, a downtown Brooklyn magazine dedicated to focusing on grassroot movements fighting issues and highlighting injustices.Many magazines and newspapers don’t focus on issues like the Independent does, and only highlight mainstream issues in the city like crime in “bad” communities or where to find thebest restaurants. Yet the Independent focuses on issues the everyday man faces such as gentrification, climate change and what people are hoping will change in how we all think and act on these topics. It isn’t always easy to report, but true journalists must report the facts no matter what obstacles might be in their way.

We learned from Professor Howell that back in the 1980’s, there were much more conflict for reporters when covering certain events. At one point, he was thrown out of a meeting between tenants and landlords which was starting to get ugly for trying to take notes on the rhetoric being exchanged between cops and the tenant unions. The truth is the most important virtue people cherish, and it’s one of the main criteria that makes journalism such an important profession. No one else would dare cover events in a town hall or other venue, report on the facts and potentially help create reforms to help fix dilemmas going on in society. Journalists like Alex utilize this power, and it’s vital that we uphold his work along with others who do the same things.

The Indypendent is one of the publications that does this, but mostly required donations and fundraising to pay publication fees. Many resort to this method, as print journalism is slowly dying out with the internet becoming the main resource humans use to get their news from. Sites like Vice and Yahoo and BBC news are becoming forefronts in reporting world coverage, and even local coverage changing how we get our news, along with focusing on issues that they feel are more important than others. For aspiring journalists, one should also look according to Mr. Ellefson at going abroad and covering news.

This allowed him to become a much more confident reporter, and no longer get nerves when interviewing important people like an NYPD officer, Mayor De Blasio, or others. Internships like his at the Jordan Times also helps one get better at learning other languages which is important if you want to talk about people of all races, and gain experience that will look great on a resume helping you get a job in the field. After all, as Alex said experience is the one thing that makes you a better journalist.

What Kind of Journalist is Alex Ellefson and What Do I Want to Ask Him?

Alex Ellefson is a independent journalist who focuses on highlighting injustices against citizens of the United States whether it be by luxury developers, foreign powers, landlords, and others. He seems to truly take in the principle function of journalism, which is to shine light on issues that many of us don’t know about, and give voices to the voiceless. For me, one of my first questions to Mr. Ellefson, what his inspiration is to report on the abuses off the oppressed by the elite or others. I was really intrigued by his story about elderly evictions from Prospect Park residence, and to learn about the profit schemes that many developers have, and their lack of basic empathy to allow individuals to spend their last few years at peace without worrying about being evicted, and finding new places to go. I’d like to know how were you able to approach the elderly citizens in this story, and how did you select narrow down and select the quotes they gave you to go in this article.

He seems able to always attempt to ask the tough questions, and is willing to address  topics that many people don’t always agree with. In your article about how the SJP group at Loyola University feels the school is punishing them for simply speaking their minds, why do you feel its important to report on a group that many individuals find incites violence, and is harmful to maintaining peaceful college communities? It was interesting to hear a side of an issue that is scarcely reported, but there was really no quotes from the administration or other side which could have added credibility to this story. In your mind, can journalists truly be objective and if not why do you feel many still say this is the most important virtue of the profession that needs to be upheld.

Also, what do you feel the future holds in the journalism field? With print journalism dying out, and jobs in the newsroom getting smaller do you think it’s getting easier or harder for journalists to make a living and do their jobs? Many mainstream papers would most likely not report on the issues you’ve covered, as it does not deal with issues that many feel are vital to their interests. Your stories on how residents are trying to fight the end of rent-freezes in Crown Heights was a great example of something many don’t want to address, and I’d like to know how did you uncover the story of the landlord calling the NYPD on its own tenants, and finally how do you determine what makes a good story.

Who is Simone Weichselbaum and What Does Her Life Tell Us About Journalism Today?”

Simone Weichselbaum is a young reporter for the Daily News who started at the bottom, and worked her way up till she reached her dream job. As Bechol reports, she is a proud Brooklyn resident raised in Williamsburg with Jamaican and Orthodox Jewish roots. After going to school in a Manhattan yeshiva and public high school, Weichselbaum went to American University and received a B.A in history, and a master’s degree in criminology from the University of Pennsylvania. After working as a crime reporter for five years with the Philadelphia Daily News, she returned home to work for the Daily News where she’s covered the Brooklyn beat on religion. In 2013, she won the Be’chol Lashon media award for “her piercing, respectful, accurate and often entertaining reporting of Brooklyn, in particular its Orthodox Jews and Jews of color.”

In 2014, she was chosen to become the first journalist of color for the Marshall Project the new internet startup dedicated to reporting on issues in the criminal justice system, according to The non-profit organization is led by Bill Keller who worked for the New York Times for 20 years as a writer and editor earning the Pulitzer Prize and covering the collapse of the Soviet Union, along with the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Weichselbaum herself has said that she made the move to the Marshall Project, so she could, ” finally utilize the degree the master’s degree she received at the University of Pennsylvania. Her articles have covered a whole range of topics in the criminal justice field such as in the wake of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri how police-community relations must be improved for the better, and how the city of Cincinatti which once dealt with a similar issue has become a symbol of harmony between cops and the public.

Weichselbaum’s work shows that anyone from any given background can move up in the journalism field through honest, dedicated and sharp reporting over what one is passionate and dedicated about. Print journalism may be dying out, but there’s a whole list of blogs or start-up companies that are hiring journalists in attempts to find new ways to report on various topics going on in the world. In addition to her story on Ferguson, she’s also published stories that dealt with topics like how women in prison must resort to making their own make-up created from sharpies and jolly ranchers, as most cosmetic products are banned from jails. Her work also shows that no one is forced to be stuck with any given beat or niche, and that there are alternative stories that can be found simply from taking a new angle at covering a familiar topic like prison conditions. Her upbringing and style of reporting lends itself to these alternative stories that focus on a beat like law, yet look at current events in pop culture, the sports world, politics or other areas that help shine a light on little-talked about subjects like where it’s legal or not to use sex toys and the effectiveness of community policing against terrorism.

          She shows how people in our profession can use their own personalities to report the news, and be honest in their coverage which is an essential part of being a successful journalist.

1) What advice would you give to aspiring journalists?

2)  What do you look for when you are attempting to write a story?

3) Do you feel that growing up with 2 different cultures made it easier for you to find various perspectives on the stories you’ve covered over your career?

4) In your opinion, do you feel start-ups like the Marshall Project are a necessity for the growth of journalism in the future?

5) What has been your proudest moment in your journalistic career?

“The Latest Happenings in My Beat.”

Over the last couple years, statistics seem to show a decreasing trend in the amount of youth crime going on in our city, though major issues still remain. A recent 2013 study by the NYS DCJS (Division of Criminal Justice Services) shows a 39 percent decrease in juvenile crimes dating back to 2011, mostly caused by lowering rates of juvenile misdeameanor crimes. Yet despite these positive numbers, the statistics also show out 7,604 juvenile arrests in New York City in 2013, 62 percent of those arrested were blacks who only make up a quarter percent of all juveniles in the city. The numbers also show in New York City, 78 percent of juvenile arrests were males compared to 22 percent females, as opposed to the rest of the state which showed a 71 percent arrest rate for juvenile males compared to 29 percent for juvenile females.

In addition, rates of recidivism where prisoners become repeat offenders is still high, so last year Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new plan. The governor wants legislation passed which would give free inmates the chance at a free college education, and thus get bachelor’s degrees which would help them find employment once leaving jails, and prevent them from becoming repeat offenders or remain outside society. Studies show recidivism rates when inmates get their bachelor degrees drops 43 percent and their chances of being unemployed also drop by half. Also since the city spends $168,000 on every inmate per year, less prisoners being reincarcerated will also the city to spend money in other areas that need improvement like education, infrastructure, etc… . In addition, there have been several recent stories including that of a young Bronx teenager Kalief Browder a black teen who spent three years on Rikers Island awaiting trial until 2013 for supposedly taking a backpack due to the poor criminal justice system in the Bronx.

This highlights not only the major issues in our city’s criminal justice system, with the Bronx’s court system being so backlogged and chaotic that cases have been awaiting trial for nearly five years, but also the dispraportionate level of black juveniles in the prison system. Groups like Children’s Aid Society try to reach troubled kids and offer help to try and stimulate their interests, so they won’t wind up dropping out of school and into gangs. More needs to be done aid troubled familes and issues in the court systems, since a recent article in the Washington Post shows that black juveniles who commit few crimes are arrested almost as much as while juveniles who commit several crimes, and since 2008 nearly 1/3 of juvenile arrests in the nation have been blacks, despite the overall arrest rate seemingly plummeting.