The final edition of Europe‘s leading financial newspaper, FT Deutschland, is out. The front page is all black, containing two words: “Black, Finally”. In an editorial article the FTD staff tries to explain to its readers why a traditional, serious and well-respected newspaper can not survive in today’s media world. (Even if most of them probably know already). The German journalist and editors blame the PR industry, who on behalf of its clients more or less have taken control of the information.
“Companies sometimes justify the requirement for consistent information with strict stock market rules. But that’s hypocritical. Because if the companies have an interest in something, they always find a way to launch something. If necessary they hire one of the booming specialized agencies to disseminate their hidden agenda. No, it’s not about stock market rules. It’s about bringing people to silence. It’s about the authority to interpret the messages.”
Klaus Max Smolka
Today, Friday December 7, marks the beginning of the end for independent financial journalism i Europe. It’s a sad day, a bitter day, but also a day for reflections. It’s been a long time coming, thou. Ever since the mainstream medias became curious about what’s really going on in the financial sector, around September 2008, there’s been targeted efforts to take control over vital information for a society, by the financial industry itself, by politicians and regulators, by different NGOs, and by organized criminals. Do you like what you see?
In today’s final edition of FT Deutschland Klaus Max Smolka explains that what killed FTD is “symptomatic of what has happened in the last ten years in the corporate world: employees’ communications departments “straddling aggressively into the dialogue between companies and stakeholders Press. Set forth communication, but rather destroy it. This applies to all levels of the company. Conversations with executives are already nearly impossible, without a push from the PR people.”
“This is not a problem if the eavesdropper restrain oneself. But too often they play the watchdog, blocking the conversation. Who takes seriously a group of managers who needs a watchdog? And who will dare to challenge a company that monitors the statements of its leaders?” Klaus Max Smolka adds.
FTD points to BASF as an example of how a once transparent and open business within a few years have become the stronghold of mistrust.
“He who BASF observes in conversation with a journalist gets a call from the “communication”, except if the conversation would have been allowed in advance. “One Voice Policy” is the euphemism for the practice, which the company plans to bring the staff on line.”
“Many follow the example, in the Dow companies it seems to be common practice now. What is imposed on the managers is applied as a fortiori to the normal workforce. Siemens and other companies have all contact with the press reported upwards. Of course, a company can expect loyalty from its people. But the way in which employees are pressured, is simply authoritarian. In the German the economy it’s like in North Korea.”
Like in North Korea..? That’s a strong statement!
Klaus Max Smolka also rightfully points out that not only commercial companies are adopting the same strategies, so does employers unions and various other organizations.
Politicians have been using chaperones for a long time, and recently there’s been popping up law firms that specializes in shutting up annoying journalists and bloggers, using mush of the same methods the scientologists have been using to silence their critics, like the copyright laws.
It’s been reported that organized criminals also uses the same law firms and same techniques to control information.
And on top of it all: Industries a companies are setting up their own news agencies who now increasingly are providing the traditional mainstream medias with industry related data, information and prewritten news articles. Like SIX News, a part of SIX Group, a global conglomerate owned by 150 international banks, and controlled by the six largest financial institutions in the world.
But today every journalist (if there’s any left…) should take a good look at oneself, colleagues, the business as a whole, and make up their own minds on how to deal with this.
The FTD staff formally apologize to the shareholders for wasting all that money on journalism, to the investors for being so critical towards the Euro project, to the corporate spokespeople for not always following their instructions, to the politicians for not believing everything they say, to colleagues for all the nights and weekends they’ve been working together, and to the readers for now being the last line of the Financial Times Deutschland. “We are sorry. We apologize unconditionally. But: If we are ever allowed to start all over again, we would do exactly the same.
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Other related articles:
- Newspaper crisis leads to a Zeitung-twister | Media Monkey (guardian.co.uk)
- The Financial Times Deutschland: Angela Merkel’s latest victim, by Thomas Fricke (nextlevelofnews.com)
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