From “hounds” to “pompous asses”: How Indian PR folks describe Indian journalists

There are many types of journalists.
There are many types of journalists.
Image: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee
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Journalism and public relations (PR) are strange bedfellows. As part of the same ecosystem, they are in a way two sides of the same coin.

But in India, journalists—more often than not—view PR practitioners with scorn and suspicion. And label them by condescending names, such as “spin doctors,” “fixers” and “middlemen.”

But how do PR folks perceive their brethren on the buy side—to whom they are continually selling stories?

For the sake of convenience, I have classified journalists by typical stereotypes that PR folks use to describe them.

The veteran

They are the seen-it-all type, and know the sector they cover like the back of their palm. They have little tolerance for bullshit or inefficiency—and it is not easy to talk them into doing a positive story about our clients.

They know so much about the sector that they will probe every possible angle, with context thrown in for good measure from other companies. They are typically on a first-name basis with corporate executives.

This type is a bit of a double-edged sword to engage with. Getting them to interact with our clients looks good, but may not result in a published or a positive story.

The hound

This type toils to see their bylines on the front pages of newspapers daily. They are well informed, have good sources, and every possible lead on negative stories on corporate clients.

PR folks consider such journalists dangerous to even speak to, as they are constantly probing. Anything PR practitioners say—or do not say—can and will be used against them and their client.

Typically, they will send a mail at the last moment seeking a comment or a confirmation on a scoop they have cracked.

The slob

A nightmare for PR folks. They tend to be unprofessional, and come unprepared for interactions with corporate honchos, with a classic opening question: “Kya ho raha hai?” (What’s happening?)

If considered pliable, they are happy to even let the PR practitioner write their story for them.

The pompous ass

One of the most dreaded breed of journalists by PR folks, they consider themselves God’s gift to journalism. They hate being called on their mobile phones, and prefer being addressed with a Sir or a Madam. Generally speaking, they are completely avoidable.

The capital type

They are found in abundance in the National Capital Region—but are also known to exist in other geographies.

Not only do they have all the qualities of a slob and a pompous ass, they shamelessly ask for material benefits. They unhesitatingly ask what gifts would be given out at a press conference. Whether they would then attend the conference or not depends on the answer they get. At the same time, they insist on being provided a paid cab service—starting from 9 AM through the press conference until past story-filing hours in the evening when they head for their daily dose of tipple and gossip at the press club.

Most vernacular journalists, and reporters in tier II and III cities, typically do not file stories without receiving gifts.

The cub

Enthusiastic. Not cynical. Prompt. They are usually open to story ideas, especially because of their limited understanding of the assigned beat. But there is a huge drawback in chasing cub reporters: They tend to make factual errors in published stories.

Mr. Nice guy

A rare breed among journalists—and highly valued by PR folks. They are open and responsive to calls, and will listen patiently to story pitches even if they’re not interested.

Unfortunately for PR folks, this breed is the rarest to spot.

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