Making the Transition from News to PR

Compiled by University of Mississippi Medical Center Public Affairs writers

The transition from writing for a news organization to working for an academic medical center is more seamless than it first appears.

Several former news reporters, editors and photographers identified these differences and similarities.


  • AP style still rules. Most stories and videos are produced for a general audience and for media use. Making it as simple as possible for media to use means writing like you’re still in the media.
  • News is news is news. You’re still looking for the newest and freshest approach for your stories.
  • The web rules. Like media, getting your product on the website and all available social media products translates to a broader reach, better reader involvement and more hits.
  • You’ll still make good use of those interviewing skills.
  • The ability to pester nicely comes in handy. It’s easy for your questions or stories you’ve sent for review to get buried in a medical provider’s email.
  • You’re able to help news reporters. You’ve been there and have an idea of what they’re seeking.


  • Style: While AP Style rules for news releases, in-house pieces likely will require institutional brands, phrases and titles you’d never use in a news story. Yes, a Ph.D is a doctor and multiple long titles may be required.
  • Where are the deadlines? With the ability to plan, big news doesn’t always hit with only minutes to translate it to a story. Former news writers talk about withdrawal from the immediate rush to finish a story.
  • Unless there’s an emergency — then the adrenaline rush hits hard.
  • You must be aware of federal and state privacy laws; research grant restrictions; and be ready to use some long, legalistic language to keep you out of copyright, federal trade law and competition trouble. Long and legalistic makes many former news writer shudder – every time they type it.
  • Now you’re the one telling reporters what can and can’t be released. It’s an odd sensation and one that never feels quite right.
  • HIPAA: It’s always there and the ritual of having your source sign their consent is foreign to news reporters.
  • You can let your hospital sources review the copy. A big no-no for news reporters, this helps immensely with accuracy on technical stories. The downside? Some sources want to jargon-up their quotes.

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