Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A must read about business journalism

Thanks to Charles Arthur for leading me to this – a piece by Dean Starkman, former business reporter, that castigates business reporting and then comes in for a good kicking by Mother Jones's commenters.

The bigger point is how easy it is for specialised journalists (of any speciality) to get too close to the interests of their sources and forget about the interests of their readers.

However, Starkman captures something very important when he says, "Increasingly, business coverage has addressed its audience as investors rather than citizens, a subtle but powerful shift in perspective that has led to some curious choices." In the UK this is exactly what the Thatcher government did with the sell-offs of British Gas, BAA, etc. Enough people could buy enough small numbers of shares to feel that they were somehow really connected to all this stuff that was going on in the City of London and Wall Street. Share prices suddenly mattered to individuals who previously would have had no reason to be concerned, just as the expansion of house ownership (not necessarily a bad thing in itself, of course) hitched us all up to the chariot of perpetual property inflation.

This is part of the bigger picture of how the context for journalism and what journalists do has changed. It was not one of the political lobby who blew open the Westminster expenses scams, it was probably someone in the fees office who was put down once too often by a snotty MP and who has wreaked the best revenge possible – getting a good shilling from the Telegraph and bringing down his tormentors. (This is, naurally, pure speculation but it's a good story don't you think?)

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