12.23.2009

The Dark Side

I’ve gone over to the dark side,” said the ex-journo with a grin. His skin looked clearer, his eyes brighter and lacking the bags that so often framed them during his deadline days. Was he happier, too? I couldn’t be sure. But I think yes.

For those shifting from editorial to PR, it’s hard to call the “dark side” a euphemism anymore. It’s so common a term among communications career traders that it’s become a generic. A rock solid visualization for the transformation that just happened.

You were Luke Skywalker (living on a desert planet, eating unnamed organic geometric vegetables, targeting womp rats from your T-16 on Friday nights). You were living with your aunt and uncle. And you tried to marry the first girl that kissed you, until you found out she was your cousin.

But after going to the dark side? Now you’re Anakin Skywalker. Not only do you have full access to a skin-tight black leather wardrobe, but you’re nailing Natalie Portman and you’ve got the star cruiser-sized cohones to rock a sweet rat tail. Don’t even TRY to tell me it doesn’t feel good.

Tactically speaking, when a journo says they’ve gone to the dark side, what they mean is that they've put their creativity up on the selling block for the highest bidder. It means that they've traded a business card that says "reporter/editor" for one that says "public relations account manager.” It means that they’ve gone from being a content creator, to being a content advocate. And most importantly, it means that they haven’t gone to “the Jedi Side” (a euphemism for taking a teaching job that hasn’t quite caught on yet).

The thing is … for PR folks who’ve made the changeover, going to the dark side doesn’t feel like the easy way out to anything. It’s a challenging career on a shifting landscape that makes newspapers seem stable. It's a stinging relinquishment of your byline rights. And it’s deadly competitive.

It may seem more stable than the deadline-driven world of journalism. It may seem more healthy to head home at 6 pm, rather than putting a paper to bed at 3 am. It may even be more lucrative than working as $14/hour reporter for 75 hours a week.

But make all the generalizations you want about the differences between the dark side and whatever-the-other-side-is-called – and you’ll never be able to knock a single truth off it’s pedestal.

The dark side needs journalism like the PGA Tour needs Tiger. Maybe more.

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