Shaun Milne asks: can he any longer call himself a ‘hack’?

OVERR a pint last week, a friend asked how I was enjoying life on “the other side”.

It was a question that took me aback.

I’d never really considered the fact that, in some people’s eyes, stating my occupation as a ‘journalist’ rather than ‘publisher’ could be considered a little wide of the mark.

After all, it’s not that long since I last worked full-time in newspapers.

Indeed, I still write a football blog for Row Z at the Daily Record, slip the occasional exclusive to a few trusted news or sports desks, not to mention ghost writing the odd column or two elsewhere.

My work helping run Planet Ink Ltd also involves using all the old skills to help produce newspapers and magazines, be they in printed or digital formats, admittedly for a handsome fee.

So surely this too qualifies as journalism.

Doesn’t it?

My argument was that you can clearly remain a journalist in the true sense of the word as long as you are performing tasks as any journalist would do.

Their counter-argument suggested that, not being involved in the day-to-day cut and thrust of a newsroom any more, I had relinquished all rights to the name.

In their eyes, I hadn’t only gone to the ‘dark side’ of PR, I’d done something much worse: taken the corporate shilling.

Troubled, I looked around for signs I was right, that I could still call myself a ‘hack’.

Stephen Rafferty, an award-winning former crime writer for the Daily Record and The Scotsman, now makes his daily living running Sure PR.

But as a quick look at his blog will testify, he’s been responsible for some of the best-read tales in Scotland this year, making it into the tabloids.

So, not only can he claim to be a top news-hound, he can show off to his clients that he is the kind of guy they really want to have on their side.

Iain S Bruce, another award-winning writer, celebrated a splash in the Sunday Herald just weeks ago that was picked up by a global audience.

Yet, these days, he spends most of his time consulting on PR strategy in a digital age for the likes of bigmouthmedia and other well-known names.

So surely that can’t mean he is any less of a journalist than someone who spends all day, every day rewriting press releases without ever breaking a tale?

Two other former Daily Record colleagues, Scott Douglas and Raymond Notarangelo, are behind one of the Scotland’s fastest-growing PR companies in the Holyrood Partnership, with a string of big name clients.

But they also run Deadline Press & Picture Agency, not just one of the more successful in the UK, but among the most forward-thinking.

Not only do they provide copy and award-winning photography, but recently began to supply video, all of which can be viewed on their blog and YouTube news channel.

In fact, the most recent YouTube stats showed that the top-viewed Deadline videos had been seen by a staggering 70,662 people, while the names of their reporters and pictures by photographers grace newspapers every day.

So there can be simply no arguing that while they may also be flacks, their credentials as hacks cannot be disputed, particularly as they are also helping to nurture a new generation of sharp-witted young journalists too.

True, there can be few better feelings in then world than picking up the streets edition and seeing your name on a hard-earned splash that you know will still be there in the morning, long after the final edition goes to bed.

But do you really need by-lines to still consider yourself a journalist?

And if so, do blogs count?

Shaun Milne
is a founding director of award-winning design, media and publishing company Planet Ink Ltd, specialising in digital, paperless publications and corporate newspapers and magazines.

Previously, he was associate news editor of the Daily Record, and also news editor then deputy editor of the Scottish Daily Mirror.

Visit his blog here and his company website here. Or view his firm’s digital brochure here.

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