A fine line between journalism and PR

Kim Fletcher, the former senior executive at the Telegraph and Independent groups, now writes a regular column each week in The Guardian‘s Media section. In his latest column, he may have touched a journalistic raw nerve.

There are obvious reasons why readers are not getting objective journalism.

Newspapers cover holidays on which they are offered trips rather than holidays they might wish to cover; they are beholden to the companies who have paid for them; the trip – carefully overseen by PRs who lay on taxis and expensive restaurants – may bear little resemblance to the kind experienced by proper holidaymakers. How many journalists order lobster when they are paying for it themselves?

On many papers, “freebies” are a kind of bonus currency, handed out as a reward for hard work or long service. A typical press trip is a mix of travel veterans and reporters allowed off the leash, united in a determination to down as much food and drink as the attendant PR will serve them…

There is a further factor at play, which is the importance to papers of advertising revenues from the travel business. Travel editors work more closely with commercial departments than most journalists in talking to the industry and creating pages designed not only to satisfy the reader, but also advertisers. Is all this getting too far from what we regard as journalistic values?

Read the full Fletcher article here (may require registration).

This, of course, never happens on any sports desks. Or do you know different? Post your comments here.

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