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My response to John Kenchington’s article

John Kenchington wrote this article on FTAdviser, in response to my article on declining standards in journalism, last week. I thought I’d provide a fuller response than is possible on twitter.

John, you’ve ignored a number of the key points in my article – it’s nowhere near as simple as you’ve made it out to be.

For starters, at no point do I suggest or imply that there isn’t a need for journalism – of course journalism is vital to democracy. I’m 100% with you on that. But it needs to be quality journalism, not churnalism. And sadly we are seeing a lot more churnalism these days.

Also, there are, as I very clearly state, some exceptional FS journalists out there – it’s the overall fall in standards that I, like others, am lamenting. And as an ex-journalist myself with (I think) a decent understanding of FS, I stand 100% by that. Many journalists out there agree with me, too. Overall, I’m not really saying anything new at all. But this piece makes it seem like I’m wildly slating all FS journalists, which simply isn’t true.

The content space has evolved way beyond the Manichaean, black and white divide you talk about – where journalists are in the light and companies always in the dark. Firms, increasingly, are aware that if they try to sell products, or even focus on their product range, they will achieve nothing.

However, if they create an independent content environment and keep it absolutely impartial and strictly objective, then the brand association that this would afford is a clear commercial opportunity. For many firms this is still a challenge (you’re right, they are still trying to flog stuff), and for many more it will be impossible — they will always be about the sale.

However, increasingly firms are catching onto the new era of ‘content marketing’ (I hate the phrase) – and the genuine opportunity impartial content written by experts (with experience) represents.

Therefore to state that firms ‘cannot resist the urge to accentuate the positive’ and that ‘impartiality takes a backseat when firms write content’ betrays, IMHO, a lack of understanding of the way companies are increasingly operating online.

Ultimately, though, my article was about a serious structural change taking place in the media, which, sadly, is applying pressure on media outlets and resulting in lower quality journalism. Again, this isn’t anything new. What’s probably new is that a PR guy is stupid enough to say it. But then I never had any sense.

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