Crossing to the Dark Side: From journalism to agency life


From journalism to agency life – hear from our pair of former journalists about what it was like to change their career. 


ALANAH: Jay! Hello! Here we are: two former NewsCorp journalists now working at creative and PR agency Keep Left – doing completely different things to when we first met.  

It’s been a pretty big year for the both of us. Tell me about your jump into the land of PR and why you decided to do it. 


JAY: It was probably a bigger jump than I expected it would be. 

I think I always knew I wasn’t going to be a journalist forever. I don’t think I was ever sold on the romance of a general news reporter – the late nights, early starts, having to be always on. But I enjoyed writing and content and I’ve always loved news. I think for me I thought I could still get that news fix without being a journo, it was just about finding the right job.  

But I feel like for you, things were a bit different? 


ALANAH: Yeah, it was a pretty huge decision for me. I probably always thought I would be a journalist and deviating from that felt like a crisis moment.  

I was just very aware that it’s such a changing landscape and it’s not enough to just be able to write, you need to be able to do other things. And even though my role here is still a content role, so I’m still writing, I’m getting more experience and exposure to all other areas of the business. 


JAY: It’s also a different outlook – when you’re a journo, everything is glass half empty. And when you come across to the other side, it’s glass half full, you’re always looking for the ‘good’ angle and trying to make a story – sometimes out of nothing. But I think having been on both sides of the fence helps because so often I’m reading something here thinking ‘if I was a journalist, I would not pick this up – so what do I need to do to make this better?’ 


ALANAH: And there’s definitely a thrill in chasing breaking news or finding your own story or seeing your name on the front page – which I do miss. But it’s a different type of fulfilment. And I think coming in from the fast-paced news cycle, to then having different types of deadlines, different ways that you meet deadlines, it’s a whole new way of applying your skills.  

What I did find frustrating was coming to Keep Left and not being able to immediately write well in ways I wasn’t used to. I was perhaps a little naïve about that. 


JAY: I wish I knew that it was going to be such a big change. I came in thinking I am going to be fine here in this role. When I started at Keep Left, I was doing copywriting as well as working in PR and I discovered I was much more comfortable with the PR side of things. For me, the news brain switched on with PR. And I did not expect that.  


ALANAH: We both agreed that another big change was getting feedback – especially feedback from external people who don’t know who’s on the other end. That was a big change, and knowing how to deal with it.  


JAY: And I think you can push back, and it’s good to push back, but you also sometimes know you will have to give them something. 


ALANAH: Final question: what would you tell other journalists considering the change? 


JAY: I guess I would say, keep an open mind. This whole dark side thing, it’s a funny term. But if anything, agencies can be a really positive environment that still let you work on the things you love.  


ALANAH: We lean into the “Dark Side” analogy, but at the same time we don’t agree with it.  I also think that our generation and those younger than us are going to have so many jobs and careers in their lifetime, so why not give it a go? The worst that can happen is you gain some new skills and can go back to journalism.  


JAY: And one of the good things about agency life – whether it’s short term or forever – is that we’ve now got journalism experience, digital experience, PR, report writing, events stuff. You get a taste of so much so when you’re trying to figure out what’s next you have an idea of what’s out there. And you work with so many sectors as well, rather than just going straight to internal comms and working with one stream. 

I would also say to other creative and PR agencies that journalists are really valuable thinkers, who provide a perspective that you won’t get from someone who has just done PR or copywriting their entire career. Give them a go – your ideas and output will be better for it.