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Journalist of the month: Will paid, impartial media eventually die out?

Blog post   •   Jul 09, 2014 11:30 +08

This month we talk to Justin Harper (@mrjustinharper), veteran journalist who has spent a decade at Daily Mail and Telegraph. He shares about his deep experiences and observations on how the journalism scene has evolved. He also regularly contributes to titles like Tatler, CNBC, Men's Health, Prestige, The Edge and Monocle.


I receive an average of... five press releases a day which come from a combination of Asian and UK PR agencies and companies. 

My main subject areas are... cars, Asian business, investing, sports and British expats.

The best thing about being a journalist is... having the flexibility to work from home and choose my working hours.

Share about development process of a story... Many stories are originated by myself from an idea I have had or something I have read which I can apply to a different audience. I then make the necessary contact, normally via email, with experts and people who can help develop the story and provide comment. Often I am asked to do a specific interview, say for Men's Health or The Edge, and to write it up as a feature. I like having both options - being spoon-fed and coming up with my own ideas.

3 challenges as a journalist... getting people to comment on the record, having to send through questions in advance and having to explain in great depth my story angle when it's not always known upfront.

What makes a good story for you? An original idea or a topic that interests me. Also writing a feature that can actually do some good and highlight a particular cause, such as protecting elephants by tackling the ivory trade in Asia.

Suggestions to PR / Communications staff... have more trust in your spokespeople by not asking for questions upfront which often stifles the interview as answers are planned and less spontaneous.

Worst Press release received... I've had some shockers. Mostly ones talking about a new technology or service that has been launched that is incomprehensible and full of jargon, as well as irrelevant to me.

The best time of day to send press releases to me... in the morning once I’ve had my first cup of coffee.

When stories should be pitched to me... when it is an original idea and relevant for the readerships I write for.

When did you start as a journalist? What is different then and now?  I started as a journalist 17 years ago fresh out of journalism college. Nowadays, PR people, especially in Asia, try to control the story a lot more than I am used to. Some UK companies are also guilty of doing this and often invite just those journalists that have written favourable things about them to events and press conferences. All journalists should be treated equally and you should accept all coverage, positive and negative.

Will paid, independent, impartial media eventually die out? It won't die out but its influence and audience will diminish over time. Corporations are becoming so big and powerful, and some are now producing their own content to rival that of media outlets. There should always be a place for campaigning, impartial and independent media in our society.

Brand Content Marketing - Is this relevant to all sectors? This is a really big growth area and the lines are always blurring between content marketing and independent news. Companies are now employing journalists to write news stories and features for them, while many media outlets are happy to run unchanged press releases. It works very well for consumer-facing companies like airlines and banks, but if done well can work for all sectors.

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