Second in most trusted biz journalist poll, but I’m not a business journalist

Typing on a white keyboardApparently I’ve come second in a poll for the most trusted business journalist, which is great. Except I’m a money journalist not a business journalist. My worry is this type of confusion is rife and is a nuisance to personal finance reporting.

The story is on the press gazette website.

“The BBC’s Robert Peston has been named as the number one most rated journalist by both journalists themselves and the general public in an exclusive Press Gazette survey.

For the December edition, Press Gazette asked 50 journalists and 1,000 members of the public (in a weighted national survey) to name their favourite business and finance journalist.

Peston was the runaway winner, followed by Martin Lewis of and then Martin Wolf of the Financial Times. Jeff Randall of Sky News was in fourth position, followed by Gillian Tett, also of the FT.”

It’s always nice to be named in something like this, especially behind the great Robert Peston (he’s a brilliant story breaker). But it is rather bizarre to be in it as it’s been eight years since I last did any business journalism.

Here is a clarification of the different jobs that fall under the ‘money’ journalists’ category:

  • Business/City Journalists. They focus on companies and markets, their profits, what they are doing, the impact on their share price etc. They are generally part of a specialist section of a paper – or TV news unit.
  • Personal Finance Journalists. They cover individuals’ finances, the products used and how people deal with their own money. They are generally part of a specialist section of a paper – or TV news unit.
  • Economics Journalists. They review the wider political economy, interest rates, unemployment, trade between countries etc. They’re generally part of the news team rather than a specialist section of a paper/program.
  • Consumer Journalists. They deal with wider consumer issues (which tend to be a bit more political and less financial), and they’re generally part of the news team rather than a specialist section of a paper/program.

While obviously I work under the trademark ‘Money Saving Expert’, as a journalist I fit in the personal finance category (which I’ve always pushed to be the wider consumer finance sector), not business journalism which is a very separate discipline. It’s a bit like a football journalist winning the ‘best cricket coverage’ category.

This blurring is quite common as I’ve often seen business journalists nominated for personal finance awards too.

The worry over the confusion is the lack of senior personal finance coverage

It may seem I’m worrying over nothing, but my problem is the confusion might lower the level of speciality required to cover stories, thus inadequately serving the readers/audience.

The BBC’s a classic case, as many of its correspondents seem to have rotating titles. One day they’re “industrial correspondents”, the next “business correspondents”. But what is their actual area of expertise (many are extremely good but why not stick to one title that covers all)?

This is really borne out in the level of importance given to personal finance. The top job in a TV news room is subject editor, and in the wider money world BBC News has three very senior and talented journalists.

  • Economics editor – Stephanie Flanders
  • Chief economics correspondent – Huw Pym (who was economics editor while Stephanie was on maternity leave)
  • Business editor – Robert Peston

Yet there’s no personal finance editor, and I think that is a grave mistake. It means the BBC chooses not to put many resources into the category that most affects people’s pockets. When I worked at the BBC (late 90s), there were countless surveys done that showed what people really wanted was news that concerned their pockets, and it staggers me this is still being ignored.

Before anyone thinks it, I don’t want the job and wouldn’t accept it if it were offered to me. My days as a news journalist are long gone. Yet there are many great newspaper and BBC candidates like Adam Shaw, Simon Gompertz and Paul Lewis.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this (see my BBC’s new biz editor blog written way back in 2005), but it’s shocking that even with the recession and all we’ve been through, the BBC remains bereft of a PF editor, even though it’s expanded its economic coverage.

Comment and Discuss

Update Note 3 December

Just seen this guardian piece about the awards.

In it it says,

“The BBC’s Robert Peston took the top spot, with Martin Lewis from in second place, although all his votes came from the public.”

So it seems it was the public not the journalists who were confusing biz and finance journalists – in which case its not so bad and is rather nice that some thought of me.