Invasion Of The News Snatchers

Thursday, 16 September 2010

I read a powerful piece in the Columbia Journalism Review yesterday on the continuing impact of severe job and budget cuts on the mainstream media. Nobody likes journalists, I know, but on the odd occasions when they get it right they provide a valuable service that democracy can't do without. The piece also includes a useful analysis of how increasing public relations budgets are also contributing to this dire situation, including a statistic that shows how the number of PR people is increasing as the number of journalists decreases. I'm not a huge fan of Nick Davies, but his popuralisation of the term 'churnalism' has woken the public to the habit of press releases being slightly rewritten and put out as news. This happens a lot in the outdoors. Many outdoor companies now have media teams that put out quasi-editorial material about their sponsored athletes that is hard for cash-strapped outlets to resist. Of course, they tell you they're doing this, and often the material is entertaining, but it doesn't necessarily offer a fair reflection of what's happening in the outdoors and it narrows the gap still further between editorial integrity and commercial interest. It also promotes those climbers who are happy to play those games at the expense of those old-school types who'd rather not. It's been interesting to compare the response of Red Bull to the fiasco last season on Cerro Torre – essentially, we really don't care now sod off – to how Mammut have managed Christian Stangl's confession about not climbing K2 – the guy screwed up, he was big enough to admit it, now we're thinking about it. My guess is that the best outdoor companies are as interested in seeing climbing's integrity maintained and won't object if poor standards are challenged.

Posted by Ed Douglas at 2.45 PM