Those who object to brand journalism do so because they see it as undermining the main and highest purpose of journalism: of threatening to make journalism into just another branch of marketing.
They say that journalism is – or should be – entirely different to advertising, marketing, corporate communications and brand management.
They believe that the main function of journalism is to make important information available to the general public, and to specialist audiences. That journalism should focus on investigating, and making public, information which reveals corruption and bad behaviour by banks, corporations, public organisations, and powerful individuals.
They argue that the other disciplines listed are tools used by corporations, organisations, governments and other powerful institutions to persuade the public and specialist audiences to adopt certain beliefs and behaviours which benefit those organisations.
They say that journalism is – or should be – about finding and telling the truth, as far as possible. About publishing unbiased information and ideas. That the main and highest function of journalism should be as a forum in which the powerful are held to account.
That role puts true journalism in direct conflict with the motives of advertisers, marketers etc, who are necessarily biased in favour of the product, service, cause, viewpoint or whatever else they are seeking to promote. Marketers and advertisers work for the rich and powerful, and against the individual.
Independent media companies, and the journalists they employ, offer one of the few checks on such power; one of the few functioning mechanisms that can probe, interrogate and reveal the truths that those organisations don’t want exposed. So journalists work against the rich and powerful, and for the individual.
Advertisers, marketers and so on do all they can to influence journalists – to get their slant put on a story. That pressure must be resisted at all costs. Journalism must not be subject to such commercial pressures and influences, or at least such pressures should be minimised and made transparent.
What do you think of that argument? Have I represented the case against brand journalism fairly?
Here’s what I say to those who are fearful of the impact of brand journalism on pure journalism: If brand journalism were to replace the idealised type of journalism described above, then they’d have a point. But it isn’t going to. I’ll explain the situation as I see it here.