This is when I miss London. It stages the debates we need. Last night Polis, the London School of Economics media think tank organised: Why Did Nobody See It Coming? Reporting The Crash – The Debate. The panel was distinguished and Charlie Beckett thankfully gives a good account of it today on his blog.
When discussing the level of blame that should be attributed to journalists for not forecasting the crisis, Beckett is surely right to comment:
The media can rarely be held ‘responsible’ for any particular social or economic disaster. Journalism can exaggerate trends and accentuate flaws but it doesn’t often cause things to happen.
But that, he argues, does not mean the journalists shouldn’t examine closely their performance. They should.
However, journo’s – finally – just chatter. They don’t do. They observe, they don’t act. The only time they are really responsible for outcomes is when they actually recommend something. Generally, the old quote about tarts and power without responsibility comes to mind.
But the PR industry, which does actually claim to be in the business of “advocacy“, “shaping outcomes” and “influencing behaviour in support of client goals“, has an even greater responsibility to face up to. Put bluntly, that’s our own proactive contribution to creating the current climate of low confidence and weak trust. Did we not set ourselves up as as guardians of reputations?
Should the PR industry make a calibrated apology for its contribution to this recession? I think so. The PR industry requires confidence and trust for its licence to operate. It cannot hide behind the systemic nature of the crisis anymore than can bankers, politicians and regulators. For our place at the table of recovery an apology is overdue.