Friday, 27 May 2011

Financial journalism faces a rocky future

I came away from a City event on Wednesday evening troubled about the future of financial journalism. The occasion was a party to celebrate the life of Nigel Whittaker, a much-respected business figure who died of cancer recently at the tragically young age of 62. His obituary in The Guardian gives a sense of a man whose ability, honesty and good humour was legendary.
Wishing to pay their respects the party had guests from all quarters of Nigel’s life – business leaders, politicians, PR people, and both print and broadcast financial journalists.
Now more than two years since I was inside a newspaper office, I had an opportunity to catch up on the ‘state of play’ of the job that had been mine for the previous thirty-five. It was bleak.
Job security in journalism had been deteriorating in the latter years of my own career – and now seems worse than ever. Feeding the demands of websites means print journalists must be prepared to make video clips, while broadcasters are obliged to write blogs. Both are encouraged to tweet.
As a consequence of expanded job descriptions and shrunken staff numbers, reporters have little time beyond re-writing news agency reports to pursue their traditional career builders – making contacts and breaking stories. Press conferences – once a seedbed for young City reporters – are being faded out.
So where do today’s journos find their own stories? Step forward financial PRs. Always powerful, they now seem to hold the whip hand whether they’re presenting their clients in the best possible light or dripping poison about rivals.
It wouldn’t help the prospects of a young journalist to displease one of the kings of the PR jungle. A new element is the rush to publication. An announcement can become a scoop if the news organisation can get it on air or online before the competition.
Does any of this matter? Well, it does rather. The UK needs good financial journalists. We (for I was still gainfully employed) need to make amends for failing to spot the warning signals ahead of the 2008 financial crisis.


  1. This is quite a paradox, GC. Because financial and economic matters currently dominate the TV and press news, ever increasingly; and most particularly, following/after the crisis of 2008. [Jaffa].

  2. Taking into account the latest OECD forcasts for the UK economy, it may not be only financial journalism which faces a rocky future.


What do you think? GC