We’ve long talked about the evolution of public relations, how instant access to the public, customers, vendors and colleagues impacts what we say, how we say it and where we say it.

Now, with the economic recession, newspapers and other print publications are facing the do-or-die transition to digital distribution. No longer can they dabble in building an online business model while maintaining their bread and butter in print.

With skyrocketing print, ink and transportation costs and decreased revenue from advertising, newspapers across the country are enacting sweeping changes that are altering how we receive our daily news.

The Christian Science Monitor and U.S. News & World Report are focusing on the Web, and as more newspapers cut back on staffing and circulation, the media landscape is changing daily, if not hourly. Even the Tribune Co. declared bankruptcy.

And there’s no better example of media upheaval than Airfoil’s headquarters in Michigan. With the big news final public today, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News are curtailing print editions to Thursday, Friday and Sunday and Thursday and Friday, respectively. (The Detroit News does not have a Sunday edition due to the JOA.)

From the Freep:

Starting in spring 2009, both the Free Press and the Detroit News — also operated by the partnership — would deliver to homes only on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, the heaviest days for advertising and the most popular papers for readers.

Free Press newsroom resources will be increasingly devoted to freep.com and related Web sites. The Free Press also will offer digitalfreepress.com, enabling subscribers to view online the pages of the paper just as they appear in print.

This news follows on the heels of a major restructuring from Booth Newspapers, which included buyouts and production moves from dailies across the state (not to mention the previous transition of Oakland Business Review from print to online).

The Oakland Press, facing a sale by its owner, is launching The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism:

We announce the formation of The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism and invite readers to attend our classes. The first class will be from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 29, in our building at 48 W. Huron St., Pontiac. We will be offering anyone who is interested — from high school students to retirees — instruction in news writing, videography, basics of reporting for news and sports, and still photography.

What do these unprecedented changes mean for public relations? Print and broadcast media relations, although a large part of the public relations, are not the sole focus of any good campaign. PR professionals need to address all aspects of a company’s public – its media, customers, vendors, analysts and influencers. And more importantly, PR needs to reach those audiences through their preferred communication channel, whether it’s print media relations, social networking or other digital communications.

The practice of public relations may take heat from time to time for ineffective outreach, but the essence of connecting a company with an audience in an impactful way remains essential for any product or service. The era of customer service as an indicator of brand influence is here, and public relations remains in a strong position to make those connections, regardless of medium.

— Tonja Deegan

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