The rise of black ops PR part II, Lionel Barber speaks out

Tomorrow's Business

What’s the biggest threat to the future of business journalism? This speech here from FT editor Lionel Barber offers five main issues, and four of them pertain to PR.

Pulling no punches, he says the threats are “hiding in plain sight”.

Number one on his list: “The army of public relations advisers employed by individuals and companies with thin skins and deep pockets.”

It’s a good speech and there’s lots there-in to ponder. The interesting thing to me is how sure Barber is that flaks are part of the problem.

The FT is a very good newspaper, but it’s far from radical.

You might expect the editor and his reporters to think that they mostly need to work in conjunction with flak-land; to co-operate.

He does not. And he certainly does not miss the old days, when financial journalism itself was “sometimes a little too clubby for my taste”.

He thinks the PR industry is “at one level…a roaring British success story”. But “black PR” is on the rise and it is bad news.

There are now nearly 5 PR people for every reporter. Barber quotes The Wire creator David Simon: “This is how a republic dies. Not with a bang, but a reprinted press release.”

A question: If there is no one left for you to spin, who needs to pay for your services?

Contact the Tomorrow's Business team news@tomorrowsbusiness.co