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Spin city: PR flacks outnumber reporters 5-1, earn 35% more

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Education,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Labor,Media,Higher Education,Pew Research Center

Note to journalism school freshmen: Switch to a communications, public relations major. Now.

A new Pew Research Center review of labor statistics finds that reporting jobs, often low-paying, are drying up while PR is expanding and offering fat salaries.

Consider these figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: In 2004, there were 52,550 reporters in America. That has dropped to 43,630. And the average pay is $35,600.

But in the PR world, everything is looking rosy. In 2004, there were 166,210 communications jobs. Now there are 202,530 employed in that field. And they earn an average of $54,940.

“Most of that widening has come from salary growth in the public relations industry during a time when salary increases in the journalism field did not even keep up with inflation,” said Pew.

The trend has played out in Washington, where once-sprawling capital news bureaus for newspapers and magazines have shrunk or been eliminated, while public relations firms have been on a hiring binge to fill glistening new K Street corporate headquarters.

Pew said one reason for the shift to PR has been the growth of digital communications and the explosion of companies that distribute “news” and information directly to their email lists.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.