As my background is both as a hack (journalist) and a flack (PR), I belong not only to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations but also The Media Society. Both keep me in touch with how the ways of disseminating information in our society – that is, how we pick up news – continues to change.
At The Media Society’s Summer Party (Groucho Club, of course, with lots of wine and not enough nibbles), we had a talk by Steve Richards, the chief political commentator for The Independent. You may remember that he has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and GMTV’s The Sunday Programme – and written for other publications including The Evening Standard. He is therefore both hugely informed and entertaining – his impersonation of Lord Mandelson was killingly funny. Steve made various predictions about the forthcoming election, not least that the Lib Dems are unlikely to support either of the two main parties should there be a hung Parliament. This has been mooted since but that was the first time I had heard it.
From a PR point of view, the most interesting insight was that this will be the last General Election where the tabloid newspapers have real influence. We all know that newspapers across the board are struggling for advertising and are reeling from the impact of online news services. Even so, it’s a shock to hear it. It’s been a traditional part of British electioneering for a century or two.
Do I feel concerned? Not really. You see, whatever the methods we use to deliver news, opinions and insights, at the end of the day, it is the content that is important. It is the thoroughness and accuracy of research, the authenticity of the reporting, the balance of views and the authority of the spokespeople that make any news source of value – or not. The form of delivery be it in printed form or online or, for that matter, flown in by Harry Potter’s owl, is not irrelevant but matters less than the quality.
And I’m all for quality!