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Some historical context on the Migration to PR

Over the weekend, I received via email an interesting letter from Chris Callahan, whose father Gary worked as a reporter before making the move to public relations in the mid-1970s!

While Chris is a mathematics teacher, he's not half-bad as a writer either I certainly enjoyed his letter. I picked up on his reference to "a story for another time" and asked him to elaborate. He responded in a second email, and I have included that here as well.

I have conducted two more interviews on the subject of migration to PR, including a reporter who made the leap to public relations, decided they didn't like it and leaped back into journalism. I will be posting that material in the very near future. In the meantime, here's the letter from Chris Callahan:

"I really enjoy your blog and had to comment on the journalist to PR move. It's not a new phenomenon but perhaps is occurring with more frequency today then in past years.

"My dad, Gary Callahan, worked as a reporter for the Tely in the 60's and 70's. I know he covered the courts and was their legislative reporter in the early 70's. (Interesting times indeed!) He worked with some fine reporters and writers, many of whom are known today. He also worked with CJON for a couple of years in the mid 70's before moving to his first job in PR with Newfoundland Telephone. I believe it was 1974 or 75 and the move was for purely financial reasons - not that the phone company was paying exorbitant amounts. Dad then moved to other jobs in PR, becoming the press secretary to Frank Moores in 1977 or 78. He left after a year (not for financial gain, but that's a story for another time) and continued to work in the field of public relations finally ending up as communications director for various cabinet ministers, Lloyd Matthews being the last.

"While Dad enjoyed the field of public relations - the increased pay, modest as it was, the shorter hours and the reduced stress of not having to meet deadlines - I think he genuinely enjoyed the newsroom atmosphere and in all likelihood missed it, although he probably wouldn't admit to it. I think he enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the newsroom, covering breaking stories and being able to write about them. And I know he enjoyed writing and was a good reporter. (I keep using that term reporter, not journalist, because it's how he and his contemporaries referred to one another in those days.)

"So here in 2008, journalists are moving on for many of the same reasons dad and others did 30 years ago. It appears, as you suggest, increasingly common. The main reason is the same - economic.

"Before I go, one story about how bad the pay at the Tely was (or is). He and Ray Guy were close friends and both facetiously quipped that "you would never get rich at the Telegram". Mom can attest to the number of times that Ray dropped by the house on Holloway Street to say hi and always managed to stay for a sandwich or supper. She still says that the pay was that bad, Ray couldn't afford a meal!"

I replied to Chris and asked him to share some of those stories "for another time". He dangled this little bit for me:

"Let me leave you with this teaser. Frank Moores once said to dad: 'Gary, you're too honest a man to be working here.' Here being the eighth floor of the Confederation Building. A few of the Frank Moores stories are indeed humorous but some also call into question the ethics of his office. I think that I have to be careful as to what I say or how I say it, keeping in mind what dad would allow me to say!"

I certainly intend to maintain further correspondence with Chris

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  • Ed
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    Gary Callahan was one of the most thorough and professional people I ever had the pleasure of working with.

    He always kept his sense of perspective and humour and for a relative newbie, he proved to be a fountain of wise advice. I have no doubt that he kept many a minister out of trouble in his time.