Should regional press move into PR?

Well, well - I nearly fell off my seat when I read this article in the Press Gazette, http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=446040&c=1. I'm all for thinking laterally when the pressure's on but I have to say that any regional press looking to diversify into PR to drive revenue will find it a hard road to take.

Whatever Trinity Mirror's editorial director of regionals Neil Benson says, the tricky issue of editorial integrity will not be as 'insoluble' as he suggests.  I can see this being highly controversial if the debate is given any air time or credibility.  Evidently long gone are the days when journalists were paid by their employer to search out good stories if they are to be hired by firms to handle media relations.

And there's the rub - it seems Benson is equating PR to media relations when actually there is much more to the PR sector than people first recognise. PR is about reputation management, which is more than firing out the odd press release in good times or bad - and it's certainly not all about the number of cuttings achieved.  PR includes stakeholder communications, internal communications, social and digital media, issues management, event management, public affairs - the list goes on.

The other thing that makes me smile (even if ironically) is that Benson evidently hasn't considered the real struggle that journalists have when they move to the 'dark side'.  No longer are they (or the editor) their master - they have to juggle the client's needs with what the media wants - and it won't be just one title they'll be targeting. Will other papers really use something that's been issued by a competitor?  We're talking a whole different ball game.

One final thought is this - should regional papers branching into PR ever go ahead, what will happen to the thousands of people and organisations without PR support in place? Can anybody answer me that?