Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Archive for the ‘trust’ Category

Fortune-telling and Fact

Posted by alicocksworth on February 27, 2009


Last week I went to a debate at LSE entitled: ‘Why Did Nobody Tell Us? Reporting the Global Crash of 08’. The event set out to explore why the media had failed to forecast the banking crisis and the gravity of its impact around the world. In spite of an all-star line up (Vince Cable MP, Evan Davis of Radio 4, Gillian Tett from the FT among others) I left disappointed. The problem wasn’t the speakers – the majority confirmed themselves first-class thinkers – but the limitations of the topic.

At this stage of proceedings it seems not only counter-productive but pretty uninteresting to delve back into the whys and wherefores of who should have clocked the magnitude of the problem and whose fault it was that they didn’t.

Two much more engaging questions emerged out of the evening: firstly, is it the media’s job to forecast world events?

Willem Buiter (FT contributor and academic) held not:

‘I don’t blame the media – they’re not supposed to see it coming. Prophets, scientists – they’re supposed to see things coming’.

I quite agree with him.

All this criticism of the media for failing to see through the fragmented intricacies of the banking system or at least failing to report it feels a lot like a blame game that is not only ridiculous but indicative of a misplaced frustration. Journalists are meant to report and report rigorously. They cannot prophesy and nor should they be expected to. Yes, opinion and prediction are important elements of the media landscape but they cannot be allowed to infiltrate the reporting of fact – isn’t that the kind of irresponsibility we so often castigate the tabloids for? Surely Mr Peston’s ‘warning’ about NorthernRock and the consequences should stand as a lesson that the media must report, not only with clarity but with impartiality.

The second more interesting and I think more pressing issue was raised by Gillian Tett – one of the few journalists who actually understood and attempted to report the fragility of the system – and disputed by Evan Davis when he said this:

‘It’s not the media’s job to bang a drum when no-one else is’

Forgive me Evan but I think that is exactly what the media’s job is.

Some of the most brutal problems the world faces are spoken of only in blushing whispers: suffering up-close tends to inspire awkward embarrassment or a channel change to perpetuate a sense of plausible deniability.

The media wields the awesome power of being able to drag these things out of the shadows and it is the only means by which social silence can be broken and allow education – education that is desperately needed around issues like sexual violence and STIs – to begin.

I do not expect the media to champion causes or issue warnings and I certainly don’t blame them for not producing an accurate horoscope for the financial world. But keeping quiet because it’s what everyone else is doing? That is criminal.


Posted in bbc, business, journalism, newspapers, politics, trust | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Should you ghost-write a blog?

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 12, 2007

The short answer to that question is ‘no’. But the long answer is a little more complex.

I was spurred into thinking about the topic again while reading this article earlier in the week.

I’ve long argued that the Guardian’s Comment Is Free isn’t a blog in the true sense of the word. It’s just a place where opinion pieces are published and people can comment on them.

(For fear of blowing my former employers’ trumpet, started allowing readers to post comments on every piece of news and opinion content back in the late 90s, if memory serves. We didn’t call it blogging.)

Nevertheless, the Guardian piece does open up the debate about whether a blog (in the Jeff Jarvis sense of the word) should ever be ghost-written.

He would certainly say ‘no’. Most hard-core bloggers would. I therefore got some nasty stares when I suggested otherwise at an event we held recently.

But I think different rules apply when you’re talking about corporate blogging, whether you like it or not.

B2B magazines (and national newspapers for that matter, especially the letters pages) often feature ghost-written submissions, and no one really questions their authenticity, or minds that they may not be written by the person whose name’s attached to them.

So why do bloggers get so precious about this? Who wrote the commandment that reads ‘thou shalt not compose a ghost-written blog?’

I agree that such blogs tend not to be as effective as the ‘pure’ ones, but they still can be highly readable (and to put my PR hat on, can work as part of a company’s communications strategy).

I also admit that they go against the ‘ethics’ of blogging – one reason why blogs have become so popular is dissatisfaction among readers/viewers with mainstream media’s tendency to indulge in deception and to have hidden agendas.

It would be a shame if the world of the blog got dragged into the same murky waters in which the mainstream media find themselves floundering these days. Transparency is one of the blogosphere’s watchwords.

But ghost-written blogs are a reality, and are here to stay. We may as well get used to it.

Posted in B2B, blogging, business, PR, trust | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A lot of newspapers say we shouldn’t trust the BBC, but why should we trust them?

Posted by Graham Hayday on October 8, 2007

More on trust and UK media.

The bruised, bowed and beleaguered BBC has been taking the kind of shoeing normally reserved for Australian prop forwards in rugby world cup quarter finals.

One reason is ‘Noddygate’, or Alan Yentob’s apparent failure to conduct several of his own interviews for arts programme Imagine.

Many columnists in the nationals have called for his resignation following this heinous example of despicable viewer deception. First there was ‘Noddygate’, then there was ‘Socksgate’… Where oh where will it end?

In this context, today’s Guardian makes interesting reading. The media section carries an article based on an interview with Alan Yentob himself. It reads:

“It turns out that, as Will Wyatt was working on his investigation into ‘Crowngate’, staff on Yentob’s arts programme Imagine were conducting a trawl into ‘Noddygate’. The results, we can reveal today, are stark. In all of the shows, in the four years since Imagine began, fake ‘noddies’ were inserted into precisely none of them. Not one.”

Yentob’s crime was in fact his own honesty. He wasn’t sure if his colleagues had inserted false noddies into his interviews, so didn’t deny it when asked if they had. Cue rabid headlines in the print media.

So can we expect articles in titles such as the Times, Sun and Daily Mail tomorrow proclaiming ‘Yentob was innocent!’

I’m not holding my breath.

There has indeed been a breakdown in trust between ‘us’ and ‘the media’. But for the press to blame the BBC for all of it smacks of rank hypocrisy. The problem may be a lot closer to home.

Posted in bbc, trust | 1 Comment »