Yesterday’s Observer included a comment piece from Ruth Sutherland, with the headline ‘finance journalists must learn what ordinary people think are big deals‘.
As the purpose of this blog is to cast an eye over business journalism, I commend an article like this one because there is so little genuine scrutiny of the headlines.
Ruth’s piece argues that a wider perspective is required by the business media, in order to cover topics that genuinely affect people’s lives. For this she suggests a broader coverage of equities outside the FTSE 100 and greater coverage of the performance and management of pension funds – after all, she says, British Airways is just a massive pension fund with a small airline tied on the side.
Her call is for ‘top quality, independent financial journalism’ to take its rightful place in the mix. Is the observer understaffed? does the message coming out of FTSE 100 institutions and the public relationship machine drown out the rest so that no one can find out anything beyond that?
She doesn’t really mention the PR machine – despite the fact the media has become so reliant on it – the result of a single day’s PR black out could be many empty pages and dead airtime with a distinct lack of ‘expert commentary’.
The headline of this article says a great deal and hints about the nature of journalism and how easy it is for reporters to get caught up in the exitement of their beat – identifying with their subjects far easier than they do with their audience. Journalists have never been popular figures, but they are no longer a minority profession either. Every profession must continually justify its role in society, giving the reasons for the decisions that end up in news print everywhere.
I am not a journalist of any particular note, but the system has encouraged me at times to think I am one. Niether is this an apology or a message tinged with regret. It just made me think – the headline that is – Financial journalists must learn what ordinary people think are big deals. We must understand our audience better. We must write copy that covers off as many angles as possible, rather than saying this topic affects the largest cohort of people and represents received wisdom on the subject. Above all, we must engage in criticism; of ourselves, of the industries about which we write and the decisions they make.