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Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis on ethical concerns with financial reporting

March 17th, 2009Posted by in Events, Journalism, Press freedom and ethics

Speaking to students at Coventry University last Friday, via video link from BBC TV Centre, UK financial journalist and consumer champion, Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com, raised questions about the ethics of economic reporting, and called for specialist journalists to declare their bias prior to publication.

“I am an ‘agenda journalist’, my job is to support opportunism,” Lewis said. “I know that I am biased. My worry is that a lot of journalism is biased without necessarily claiming that it is biased,” he said.

Had it been Lewis himself who had got Robert Peston’s Northern Rock crisis scoop for the BBC in 2007, it would have raised ethical questions for him, he said. He would find ‘breaking a bank down difficult to live with,’ he said.

“It is an incredibly difficult question, because if you answer publicly that you are worried about one bank, you can cause the problems that you were talking about,” Lewis said.

The creator of MoneySavingExpert.com dismissed claims that financial journalists, particularly Peston, were becoming too powerful in the volatile economic climate, and said that stories had impact, but not overriding power in decisions made.

“Government has to follow the way the media is going to cover these stories, but ultimately, the people who are making the decisions are the lawyers, the people sitting in the Bank of England, at the FSA [Financial Services Authority] and in the cabinet,” he said.

Defending the future of financial journalism, Lewis claimed that there would always be a place for economic reporting, but that the significance of the reporting would depend on the methods used by the journalists involved.

“What we want is journalists who are questioning, but who also have to be respectful of the wider picture, and the impact that their journalism has on people,” he said.

The ‘money saving expert’ also insisted that journalists need an ‘ability to see both sides’ in order to avoid the potential pitfalls presented by a subject with such a large effect on so many people.

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  • Bob

    Unbelievable. Thanks journalism.co.uk. Reading this I can now die in peace with the knowledge that journalism is officially dead.

    Martin Lewis is a former PR who has transformed himself into one of the country’s leading credit card salemen having devised a technique he describes as “journalistic research” to mask the activities of a multi-million pound financial services website.

    But because he’s a face on TV (a sleb) no one – wake up journalists – has thought to question this? What the xxcx is “journalistic research”? other than PR, the very thing that proper journalists are supposed to see through.

    The twist is that much of Lewis’s advice is sound. Read the tips, apply for the credit card: bingo. Everyone = happy.

    But the practice has spawned a genre of copycats with every financial services website now employing “journalists” to publish “biased” (to quote Lewis) reports on the best products. Check out the “reporters” on Moneysupermarket.com – a stock market listed financial services company. Or consumerchoices.co.uk, and so on.

    This is not journalism. This is PR. And to read such reverential tosh on a journalism website is revealing to say the least.

    Best bit:

    “He would find ‘breaking a bank down difficult to live with,’ he said.”

    Oh:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLIe5X9DBew

    For a more insightful (journalism) view of the Lewis empire you may want to check out…

    http://www.insiders-view.co.uk/modest-martin-lewis-a-reader-rants

  • Viper 1

    For some industry insight into Martin Lewis and declared interests, this blog is definitely worth a read…
    http://www.insiders-view.co.uk/modest-martin-lewis-a-reader-rants

  • clive thomas

    Does anyone else think Martin Lewis celebrity financial journalist models himself on CNBC’s Jim Cramer? Both wear a signature shirt. Lewis always wears a stripped shirt, Cramer always rolls up his sleeves. Both use mad gimmicks and both have recommended stocks to the public the week before they crashed (Icelandic savings accounts for Lewis, Bear Stearns stock for Cramer). The only problem Lewis has with bringing down a bank is once bust he can’t collect his commission. I don’t agree he’s a journalist, he earns more from commission than he does from editorial fees so that makes him a snake oil saleman and his advice isn’t sound. He’s done nothing to stop credit card debt reaching £53 billion in the UK, in fact he’s fuelled it because the more credit cards he can persuade people to take out, the more money he makes. As to why he’s never asked to answer for the dire state of personal finances in the UK given he’s been the the wall to wall face of personal financial journalism for the past five years I do not know.

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