The cheque that never arrives

Tomorrow's Business

Some ‘orrible big companies – the very worst of them – employ a particularly grubby tactic in their bid to control the press.

It goes like this: get in to see the commercial department. Pose some tie-up or sponsorship deal worth millions.

Sound enthusiastic. Then start niggling.

Across town, newspaper bosses are trying to tone down coverage of some companies while they await the arrival of a cheque that is never going to be signed.

This is quite a clever way of controlling coverage, and a clear danger to journalism, especially now when finances are incredibly tight.

It is also an appalling way to behave and hacks on the receiving end simply never forget.

A colleague recalls the arrival of a retail boss for lunch with the editor. Once the niceties were out of the way, he produced a piece of paper detailing his companies advertising spend with that title.

The editor ignored him, but just now that tactic might work, at least for a bit. Later, when the coast is clear, the hounds will be released.

Hacks know something commercial departments do not. Which is that the only way to make money out of journalism is to do journalism.

It’s an expensive business and profit margins are small. But it is the only way to survive.

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