Wow.... either Reuters F-up or they're playing on someone elses story (which would be really funny). Someone posted the story on a message board I frequent some time ago. If I can find it, I'll send you the link. Any way... enjoying your blog and I did a write up on it the other day calling you the Wonkette of the PR industry. :-)
While this will be considered by some as an extreme characterization, even I have to admit that there is a certain element of truth to this comparison.
My last experiences on the agency side, which were with two of the top five international firms, seemed like nothing more than big money grabs -- particularly as the holding companies drowned in seas of red ink after never-ending acquisition binges, and they became desperate for cash flow. It was all about being consistently billable, improving billability percentages month over month, enhancing operating margins, and squeezing clients to increase their budgets and/or purchase services they did not really need or require. There was, and probably still is today at some firms, an incredible amount of pressure to consistently generate fees, lower overhead, and improve profitibality all the way around. These pressures have even led some to engage in some nefarious practices, all of which have been well documented in the trades and in the PR blogosphere. No need to rehash all of that.
Without question, is this an inherent part of the agency business? Sure, and I get it. It also happens to be the nature of any consulting-oriented industry, not just public relations. However, back then, it didn't just feel like it was simply part of agency life...it felt more like some scam. I know many young practitioners who never became comfortable with these cutthroat environments, and they moved on -- from both the agency, and the profession. And that's a shame, because these were talented, intelligent pros who were essentially unprepared for the way The Real World works.