Changing sides: BBC’s Richard Sambrook joins growing list of journalists who abandon the newsroom for PR

February 17, 2010

What is it that makes them switch? Higher salaries? Shorter hours?

Whatever it is, there’s no shortage of senior BBC journalists making the move from the newsroom to the world of PR. The latest is Richard Sambrook, one of the highest-ranking journalists in the corporation, who is leaving the Beeb after 30 years to join blue chip PR firm Edelman as global vice-chairman and chief content officer.

He’s in good company:  former Newsnight editor Peter Barron left the BBC to become Google’s most senior spokesman in the UK and Ireland and former technology editor Darren Waters is now MD of Monument PR.

Sambrook acknowledges many will consider his move an odd one, but he justifies it as one that has been made with the future of media in mind…

"Some people will be surprised that a journalist who has stuck his neck out on many occasions for the independence of  news media has joined a PR company. It misses the point. Edelman are redefining corporate communications and growing fast. As digital media explodes traditional channels, they are exploiting the new opportunities that are opening up."

Scores of regional and national newspaper staff and editors end up in public relations and it could be that the – always somewhat artificial – cultural dividing lines between content creators and promoters, is fading away. If you’re good with information, you’re good with information – does it really matter how people use their skills?

With any luck Sambrook will talk about this – and the small matter of the state of global journalism and the BBC – at a special Frontline Club event on Tuesday February 23rd. Tickets are on sale now.