The Turncoat Phenomenon: Role Conceptions of PR Practitioners Who Used To Be Journalists

Bernadette Kester, MAE Prenger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


For a long time, Dutch parliamentary journalists have shown an interest in migrating to the “other side” and becoming political PR professionals or spokespersons. The Dutch term used by journalists for colleagues who make this switch is “overloper” (turncoat). It is a term with a clear negative connotation, which says a lot about how journalists view the field of public relations. The relationship between journalism and public relations has received much academic attention, revealing a rather strong antagonism. Research also shows an increased blurring of boundaries between the two professions. However, there is little research on the lived experience and role conceptions of former journalists who now work in public relations. For our study, we interviewed eleven “Turncoats”. Our research focussed on their perception of their past profession as journalist, their motivation to switch to public relations and their views on the relation between public relations and journalism. We found that both intrinsic and extrinsic motives played a role in their career switch. Most notably they construct a permeable boundary by importing journalistic skills and roles in their new profession. They also have clear opinions on what those boundaries should be and are critical about the current state of journalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-437
Number of pages17
JournalJournalism Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2020


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