Friday, December 01, 2006

Ten thoughts on...business journalism

This Friday series of Ten thoughts on... turns to business journalism. I have had only a fleeting experience of consumer press, but I'm convinced the move to business was right for me and I have no regrets. I can't abide "celebrities" and this shallow obsession with nonentities. After talking to the MA (Magazine Journalism) students at the University of Central Lancashire on Tuesday, this is why business journalism is a good career move.

* No-one has yet written a savage portrait of working in the business press in the way that Toby Young portrayed life at Vanity Fair under editor Graydon Carter. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is a brilliant tale of rampant egos and preposterous pomposity. I don't think my magnum opus (The Devil Wears Ciro Citterio) about Emap Media under Jon Thater, Steve Buckley and Richard Gold would be quite the rip roaring page turner.

* The power of business trumps state power. Covering that and being close to that matters more than ever. Corporations are accounatble to their markets and so they guard their reputations with care. They take journalists seriously.

* You serve a community. People are defined much more these days by where they work and what they do in their working lives. A magazine that addresses their identity will do well.

* You have access to powerful people. I started in the business press on a niche IT title called IBM System User. It was hard work, not many laughs, but the readers really valued the magazine. Board directors of major multinationals would return calls.

* You have access to impressive people. People who are changing the world with their courage, investment and innovation.

* You can change things. Business magazines can campaign for change and win. The Publican, Retail Week and Computer Weekly have some of the finest examples of campaigning and investigative journalism.

* It's a good career. The money is alright; certainly better than regional press. Prospects are good. There are great opportunities in the Far East, Middle East and America to jog your career along.

* In business magazines, the balance of power with PR people is tipped in favour of the press. They need you more than you need them, in most cases.

* International travel. You may only go to product launches and press trips but I've been all over Europe and North America. A small matter, but it's the only time I've ever travelled posh class.

* You could get your magazine featured on the guest publication slot at Have I Got News For You (full list here). Who can forget the chortling as excerts were read out from Global Slag magazine and Batteries International.

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