During my time in the newsroom the biggest criticism levelled at business journalism was that it was nothing more than an advert for the subjects it covered. It’s a complaint similar in substance to the one most levelled at PR. Put simply PR is charged with raising the profile of its subject regardless of bias and the interest or enjoyment of its audience.
Having done both jobs for many years I have to say that both criticisms are valid. Often we find that advertisers exert undue influence over, in particular the business section but also the overall content of the media platform – despite the rather hollow protestations of the editors and advertisers involved. And as for PR? Well all you have do is look over successive saccharine PR Week in depth interviews to see how a public relations focus can turn even the most interesting subject into a nauseating snooze fest.
The point is, good PR, good business journalism, or indeed any discipline of journalism, is not governed by the desires of its subject but driven by the needs of the audience.
If you get this basic truism right and the truth and honesty of the piece chimes with the audience; then you have a chance to change behavior, reach a larger audience and engage. If, as is often the case this basic tenant is lost due to the pressures of delivery and partnership then it’s a lot of work for very little result – surely this is the worst of all worlds with time and money wasted.
PR practitioners and some journalists would do well to keep this to the fore of their minds.