Archive for the ‘Roy Greenslade’ tag

Journalism 0-1 PR

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The journalists lost. At the end of last night’s sparky and spikey Media Standards Trust / Westminster University debate, 59 people voted for the motion “The growth of PR is threatening the integrity of the Press” vs. 164 against (with about 80 plus abstentions). Ouch.

How did it happen? Before the event the journalists looked like they would walk it. Nick Davies cited copious examples from his book, Flat Earth News, of wiley PR people manipulating the media in favour of their clients. And Roy Greenslade made a strong case for the serious and growing imbalance between the ‘seekers of truth and gatekeepers to truth’.

At the same time Lord (Tim) Bell was unable to explain why concealing the truth about BAE, Saudi Arabia, Boris Berezovsky and the president of Belarus (all of whom his company, Chime Communications, represents) was not against the public interest. And nor did Phil Hall (head of Phil Hall associates) respond to Greenslade’s challenge that PRs were blocking journalists’ access to information.

But there were, I think, four reasons why the journalists lost. Two just and two unjust.

First the just reasons:

Bell and Hall made robust defences of PR. If you’re going to blame anyone for journalism’s lack of integrity, both argued, you have to start with the news organisations themselves. If proprietors, or ‘the prawn sandwich brigade’ as Hall called them, weren’t so obsessed with their shareholders then maybe they’d put more money and effort into raising their standards of journalism.

Davies conceded that journalists were as much to blame. “Our trade is broken” Davies said, as a consequence of market and competitive forces. And as a result, journalists leave themselves open to PR advances.

And the unjust?

The audience was biased. There was definitely a majority of PR students and practitioners in the auditorium who, one felt, had pretty much made up their minds before they came in.

But, more substantively, I’d argue that the extent of the imbalance between PR and journalism is not yet widely enough known. Nick Davies’ book has some great examples of the wheezes of PR companies, and some fascinating analysis of the quantity of PR material in the newspapers, but we need more, much more. We need analyses of PR material from across all media. We need evidence of the number and type of approaches made by PR to journalism. And, most of all, we need investigations that demonstrate how much public interest material is concealed or buried by PR.

If we’re going to make the relationship between journalism and PR more transparent; if we’re going to prevent a build-up of ignorance and animosity between the two (and enhance the integrity of both), then we need to be more informed. We need to do more legwork.

Written by Martin Moore

April 10th, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Stop buying the Express

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“I fail to see”, comments Kieran216 below Roy Greenslade’s excellent McCann/Express blog, “how anyone of sane mind could have such complete lack of dignity to actually perform the act of walking up to a shop counter and paying money for the Express or the Star”.

S/he has a point. Here are papers that have knowingly printed stories they know to be false and that they know will be highly damaging to the McCann family. And they have done so with a grotesque cynicism and lack of respect not just for the McCanns but for their own readers. Just to take one instance from last October: on Monday 8th the paper splashed with ‘Madeleine parents in the clear: new shock on DNA evidence’. Then followed this on the 9th with ‘DNA puts parents in the frame’ (hat tip Observer).

And it doesn’t stop with the McCann’s. As toxtethogrady comments on the same Greenslade blog: “Can we have front page apologies for the hundreds of made up Diana and weather stories now as well?”. You could extend toxtethogrady’s list to include stories about the family of Shannon Matthews, stories about climate change and, of course, stories about immigrants and immigration.

At the same time the papers’ owner, Richard Desmond, continues to make phenomenal personal profits from his newspapers while cutting the number of staff. Last year, according to The Scotsman, he paid himself £40.7m, a good portion of which came from profits made by the Express and Star titles. Yet at the end of 2006 he cut 60 jobs from these titles and outsourced the whole business section of the Express to the Press Association – to save costs.

Desmond appears to be happy to print anything, true or false, to sell enough papers to make a profit. The more his papers’ circulations decline the more costs he’ll presumably cut until, at some stage in the next decade or so, they eventually become unprofitable to print.

Our only hope is that the people who keep putting their hand in their pocket to buy any of his papers, stop.

Written by Martin Moore

March 19th, 2008 at 9:39 am

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The big debate – Journalism vs PR, April 9th

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Earning over £6.5 billion a year and enjoying double digit growth, our public relations industry is now the second biggest in the world (behind the US).

Contrast that with the news industry. Newspaper circulations are in decline, internet revenues show no sign of replacing print revenues in the near future, and news organisations are cutting editorial budgets and desperately searching for new ways to make money.

Is the growth of PR threatening the integrity of the press?

We’re holding a major debate on this motion in association with the University of Westminster at the Old Cinema on Regent Street on 9th April at 6.30pm.

Arguing for the motion are Nick Davies, award winning Guardian journalist and author of Flat Earth News, and Roy Greenslade, ex-editor of the Daily Mirror, Guardian media blogger and professor of journalism.

In his book Davies claims that journalism is turning into churnalism. That journalists are regurgitating public relations material and presenting it as independent news. That over 40% of articles in our 5 most prestigious dailies are initiated by PR. Public relations is, Davies suggests, sapping our news of its political and social value.

Arguing against the motion are Lord Bell, Chairman of Chime Communications, and Phil Hall, ex-editor of the News of the World and founder of PR firm Phil Hall Associates.

As one of the most well known figures in PR in the UK, Lord (Tim) Bell will be able to talk about the industry’s growing influence based on lots of first hand knowledge. His firm’s client list includes Boris Berezovsky, BAE, the Saudi Arabian government, and some prominent Labour Party donors. On top of which Bell is, according to his biographer Mark Hollingsworth, “a dealer in information… [who] establishes close relationships with journalists and editors as a way of ensuring that his client’s message is conveyed to his liking… Favours are offered and received: if the story about the client is spiked, the journalist is handed an even better exclusive about someone else. If the article is published, future cooperation is withdrawn”.

The event is free but we need names on the door for numbers and security (email

Motion: The growth of PR is threatening the integrity of the press
Organised by: The Media Standards Trust in association with Westminster University
At: The Old Cinema, Westminster University, 309 Regents Street, Wednesday 9th April, 6.30pm
For: Nick Davies, author of Flat Earth News, and Roy Greenslade, ex-editor of the Daily Mirror and Professor of Journalism
Against: Lord Bell, Chairman of Chime Communications, and Phil Hall, ex-editor of the News of the World and founder of PR firm Phil Hall Associates
Free: but names must be given in advance (email

Written by Martin Moore

March 7th, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Media figures still in the dark about future

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The more I read about predictions for the future of media by senior media figures, the more apparent it becomes how few of them have any clue where things are going.
Two recent reports, one from the World Editors’ Forum & Reuters, the other by Accenture, illustrate this in spades. The first, based on interviews with ’435 of the world’s editors-in-chief, deputy editors and senior news executives’ (from Roy Greenslade), suggests many of them have given up worrying and are now adopting a Panglossian view. 85% appear to agree with Voltaire’s character that ‘All is for the best in this the best of all possible worlds’ (i.e. that they will enjoy a bright future). 50% believe that journalistic quality will improve over the next 10 years. And 75% see increased interactivity with readers as a positive development for quality journalism.
The second report is less sanguine. Amongst other findings it picks up, and contradicts, this last point. Accenture interviewed 110 media executives in the US and Europe. The biggest challenge, 57% of them said, was how to deal with user generated content. “To succeed in this environment,” Universal Studios’ Doug Neil said, “you need to innovate and anticipate the needs of the consumer, be willing to take risks and try new things.” Take a punt, in other words.
Accenture themselves appear to be equally clueless about the direction of media. Gavin Mann, one of the authors of the report, informs us that: “Traditional, established content providers will have to adapt and develop new business and monetization models in order to keep revenue streams flowing. The key to success will be identifying new forms of content that can complement their traditional strengths.” New business models? New forms of complementary content? They needn’t have done 110 interviews to learn that.

Written by Martin Moore

April 17th, 2007 at 12:33 pm

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