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Alistair Cunningham: What I want from a financial journalist

I don’t value a journalist who spins the latest press release into a story

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As the internet has become more technologically mundane it has become a far more exciting tool for communication and information gathering.

I’m an early adopter, but like many find I send more emails than letters, do more shopping online than in person and receive more news via electronic outlets than conventional, printed media. I probably have more “virtual” conversations than I do “real” ones.

The pressure on traditional printed media will no doubt continue – advertising is increasingly switching to online forms and distribution via electronic means is often more accessible for readers and invariably less costly for publishers. A third factor, which is less well understood, is the increasing value of expertise.

Conventionally journalists have acted as middlemen – linking those with knowledge to those who desired it. In a world where a raft of information is freely available the middleman’s role is diminished. If I want to hear the view of an economist, or opinion of a pension’s lawyer I simply need to follow the right individuals on Twitter, or read their blogs.

Expertise (or authority, to use Google’s terminology) is the de facto reputational currency of the internet. The flat nature of information availability and the very low cost to entry means a blog’s articles that are written with knowledge and passion, but break many journalistic ‘rules’, can receive as many visits as articles on more conventional news channels’ sites.

The definition and role of the journalist is changing. The Tweets, YouTube videos and Facebook posts coming out of Tahrir and Taksim square come from the rising tide of vocal citizen journalists. Martin Lewis, a conventional journalist turning his hand to an unconventional media, netted £87 million this time last year due to the popularity of his retail financial services blog and forum – “Money Saving Expert”.

I don’t want to appear critical of conventional media, but I would hasten the necessary changes. When reading financial press I don’t value a journalist who spins the latest product launch press release from a insurance company into a story, nor do I have any interest in consultants hungry for column inches, nor want to read about the revolving door approach to executive recruitment which fuels many articles. I don’t agree with everything Nic Cicutti writes, but embrace his opinion-led writing.

Opinion is what I want from career journalists; the best disseminate, investigate, analyse and present a viewpoint. This is at its most relevant in financial services, where those that have the power to comment and criticise often a vested interest in remaining silent. Could we have avoided the banking crisis with a more probing press, willing to challenge the regulator’s monitoring of affairs?

The reason I’m a big fan of social media, particularly twitter and selected blogs, is that I can elect to receive opinions from experts that I’m interested in hearing from. Over time these experts have invariably become friends, which means of course, their opinions are many times more valuable. I enjoy answering questions they ask, and in turn find their responses invaluable. “News” from all areas of interest to me invariably breaks first on social media. The comments on our trade press websites often say more about financial services than the body of the article.

A few hours a week cultivating your own network of trusted journalists online, through the media that work for you, can be highly rewarding. Of course, if you don’t agree – I’m just expressing an opinion.

Alistair Cunningham is financial planning director at Wingate Financial Planning

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Comments

There are 8 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. The problem with the internet is that it is full of peoples opinions on all sorts of rubbish. And anyone can now put out their opinions on anything out there, no matter how irrelevant or mundane.

    I no longer use Facebook or monitor Twitter as I am really not interested in knowing that someone I haven’t seen for about 20 years ‘is having a great day’ and ‘feels absolute awesome today’ – there is a reason I doubt talk to you anymore and haven’t seen you for years, so why should I find out how your cat is everytime I log onto a web page?

    What I actually want from a website or the internet or a specialist site (such as this) is the news that is affecting the industry – do I really want to know what you want from a journalist? or what your worst piece of out of date technology is? No. So why does this irrelevant rubbish keep appearing on these pages?

    Just my opinion and apparently my opinion, however uninteresting and irrelevant is as important as anyone else’s. Thank goodness for the internet otherwise I would have had to wait until I left the office and went to the pub and spoke to some real people before anyone could hear what I had to say.

  2. Anonymous | 3 Jul 2013 3:47 pm

    Is your comment not in the same context as the article?

    But I see your point, you didn’t write an article about it.

  3. Simon Webster 3rd July 2013 at 4:38 pm

    The problem with much of the printed media is that it is funded by advertising. So any opinion that may upset advertisers is likely to be moderated – as may be this comment!

  4. Sarah Godfrey 3rd July 2013 at 4:40 pm

    I think what’s missing from this article is any understanding that there is a difference between a ‘journalist’ and a ‘columnist’.

  5. The problem with admitting you live your life as a virtual recluse online and mainly converse with your peers via, the likes of Skype, Twitter and FaceBook et al. is other people who don’t have the same interest as you, either think you’re a geek or a total sad act.
    My advice to you at this point would be to get out there meet nice girls, drink beer and shop til you drop on the high street before it’s too late. Seriously, if you think the people blogging and tweeting are experts you’ve lost the plot. Lastly, please don’t admit you’re looking for friends online because you never know who is watching and you just might get a visit you don’t want early one morning. You have been warned!

  6. Well this article backfired quite quickly.

  7. It would help if the sun moved their financial section to page 3. I could then scan in the one page and ogle at the ftse all day . Don’t know how to do double page scanning ; any tips ?

  8. If you want to see just how dangerous journalistic opinion can be then pick up the latest copy of the Daily Mail. Affectionately known as the Daily Hate to any one with an ounce of common sense.

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