20th February 2015

Journalists, Newspapers and Advertisers

The reputation of journalists has taken a bit of a battering over the last few years. Various scandals and a downturn in public opinion have seen the media world under a scrutiny it has never seen before.

So it was interesting to read this week that Peter Oborne, a highly respected Daily Telegraph political columnist, had quit his role as a matter of principle.

His declaration that the Telegraph was suppressing stories about HSBC over fears of losing advertising revenue has been picked up across many other media outlets.

He labelled the Telegraph’s actions as: ‘a fraud on its readers’.

The paper said his statement was “full of inaccuracy and innuendo”.

It’s a very interesting development. It is an undoubted fact that newspapers and other media outlets rely on advertisers.

But in my view this should never be allowed to compromise the editorial content of any news organisation.

I remember a tabloid carrying a highly inflammatory story about the private life of a chairman of a highly successful firm a few years ago.

The firm was a big advertiser and as soon as the story was published the account was pulled instantly meaning they wouldn’t advertise with the paper again. The advertising department wasn’t happy but at no stage was there any suggestion from the powers that be that the story should be dropped.

The Press Gazette this week claimed Oborne had a lot of support for his actions from fellow journalists on the Telegraph – unsurprisingly they had asked not to be named, given the sensitivity of the situation.

Peter Oborne summed up his stance very succinctly: “A free press is essential to a healthy democracy. There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.”

By Dave Goddard, head of media