‘What a sanctimonious few paragraphs’- PRCA director general responds to Robert Peston's comments that ‘PR is the enemy’

PRCA director general, Francis Ingham, has called comments made by the BBC’s Robert Peston ‘sanctimonious’ after the Economics editor made scathing remarks about the PR industry. In a blog post on the Huffington Post, Ingham said he initially thought Peston’s speech – at a British Journalism Review (BJR) lecture last Thursday – was a spoof, and that no senior journalist could write such a ‘venomous, ill-judged diatribe’. In his speech Peston expressed fears that PRs ‘are the enemy’ and told those at the BJR lecture, “Pretty much my first action when I joined the FT in 1991 as head of financial services was to tell the team that they would be in serious trouble if I heard them talking on the phone to a corporate PR rather than a chief executive or chairman. My view has never changed”. In response, Ingham remarked that journalists rely on PRCA members to help them ‘fill their copy, confirm their facts and to give them the news’. “Now, Mr Peston might regret that this is the case,” he wrote. “But he should deal with the world as it is, rather than the utopia he might like it to be. And if he talks to his colleagues in the rather large BBC press department, I'm sure they'll set him straight.“Here's the truth, tough as if might be for him to accept. His industry relies upon mine. For facts. For opinions. For copy.”Ingham added that Peston’s speech displayed a lack of knowledge about the PR industry and said that journalism should be ‘ashamed of its laziness’ if it takes the word of just one PR as the only side to a story.Also in his speech, which was published in the Guardian, Peston warned of the threat to journalism from native advertising and said that the online culture of the media is gradually taking over. “Today when I talk to my pals on newspapers, they talk of constant pressure – not to get unique and exciting stories, but to find ways of turning what is now called content, and is regarded by bosses largely as a commodity, into money. It is all about, awful word, monetising news. Which, of course, in one sense is completely necessary. There will be no jobs for any of us if there is no way to generate profit from news.“But news that is a disguised advert, or has been tainted by commercial interests, is not worth the name”. In a tweet sent out this morning the PRCA defended the PR industry and said that journalistic integrity is important for its members.

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