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Content should be king 12 November 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in journalism.

It’s been very interesting to have spent the first few minutes and hours of each day recently with steadily widening eyes not because of waking up but because of the latest development at the BBC. It was very heartening this morning to hear two of the great and the good standing up for the values of public service broadcasting. They made similar points: Liz Forgan (Scott Trust) said that ‘compliance’ should never have been separated from editorial judgement, and David Dimbleby said that the management had betrayed a committed workforce. Every time there were cuts, more managers were brought in to manage the cuts, leaving no one to care about the content. So we have a revolt of professional craftspeople against the generic profession of ‘management’ in the abstract.
There’s hope in this, as it’s fundamental to an ethical view of work and business – that you carry it on in order to do it well, not to extract the maximum that you can from it. Any profit you make is a by-product, not the objective. The grilling that the Public Accounts Committee is giving wealth-extractors Starbucks, Amazon and (gulp) Google echoes this very aptly. It’s a joy to behold, and abut time too. It’s a shame it takes the sort of crisis we are in to loosen parliament’s self-restraint.
These observations reminded me of the time in my own career when a layer of management was brought in over my editorial head. It distanced me from the customer, and instrumentalised me. Rather than being the co-creator of a well-crafted product, I was just a machine for churning out a specified number of words by a specified date. The business seemed to believe that its added value was in manipulating the communications channel – the web – rather than the information it was conveying. I felt pushed to the periphery of the organisation, and sure enough I eventually fell out of it. I like to think it was their loss!
It is ironic that Forgan and Dimbleby were being interviewed by the man, John Humphreys, who savaged George Entwistle so hard at the weekend that by the time the day was out he was toast. It’s as if the single most desirable characteristic in a leader is not judgement but combativeness. ?it makes good headlines but I’m not sure it’s the best way to run a railway



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