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Plans afoot for new management journalism service

Last August, amidst all the speculation over the Observer’s future, we reported how academics and business figures were threatening to cancel their subscriptions to the Sunday newspaper, following the decision to axe Simon Caulkin’s Observer Management column. Guardian News and Media never re-instated Caulkin and a letter of complaint from nearly 100 leading authors and academics went unpublished.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Observer did not later report how the Work Foundation had named Caulkin columnist of the year at the end of January. As noted by Private Eye in its latest issue (1255): “Newspapers usually trumpet awards their writers win. But the Observer and the Guardian were strangely silent…”

Philip Whiteley, management author, blogger and editor of the Human Capital Forum, who spearheaded the Caulkin complaint, has now launched a new campaign: for more effective coverage of management in UK media.

“It is also a reaction to the feeble coverage of the Kraft-Cadbury merger in mainstream newspapers in which business journalists repeatedly refused to put any tough questions to the Kraft or Cadbury leadership on the very high risks and integration costs that mega-mergers involve,” he said.

Whiteley believes that in reporting the Kraft-Cadbury merger, journalists focused on finances and the offer price rather than management challenges.

“The error common to the banks and the Kraft-Cadbury affair is to imagine that the management task, even though it is responsible for delivering the vast bulk of the returns from investment strategies of banking employees, or take-over activity respectively, is still bizarrely regarded as a junior matter, not front-page material,” Whiteley argued in a recent blog post, criticising both the Financial Times’ and the Telegraph’s coverage.

The new management project will collect blogs and other web news sections and launch a ‘blog of blogs’ – “a summary from the management blogosphere”.

Whiteley will circulate this to the Human Capital Forum’s database (16,000 subscribers) on a monthly basis, with the possibility of extending that to the databases of all participants.

“The aim is to provide more critical coverage of governance and management in the public and private sectors,” Whiteley said.

He cited a comment left on his blog, as another prompt for the new network:

“There was a time when papers like the FT and others had the expertise and inclination to dispel the myths of uttered corporate statements. Alas, no longer. The institutions that were supposed to be ever vigilant and fearless are now content to simply cover the passing parade. One has to read the right blogs and the right books to get any sense of objective insight into what’s going on. A real shame.”

Human Capital Forum has listed some online management resources here: http://www.humancapitalforum.com/links/index.php

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  • http://none Clive Bone

    The problem is that the management of material and human resources is not understood, lacks status and is not on the radar of journalists and politicians. Many moons ago Sir John Harvey-Jones remarked that the desk-flying consultants he used were being paid more than he was as head of ICI.

    The result of this indifference to making things work is low productivity, endemic failure in Whitehall and industrial decline. There are exceptions, particularly in construction, but the general picture is poor. Maybe the business schools should be doing more here.

  • John Carlisle

    Philip
    I could not agree more. The coverage is largely simplistic and, with the exception of William Keegan every now and then, lacks analysis. Also, The Guardian, in particular, can be very complacent. Their report of their assembled panel that reviewed the Boorman report on the NHS was nothing less than an exercise in unctuous back-slapping. My comment, in an unpublished letter to the paper was: “I am astounded at the extent to which the panel of experts has accepted the overall “corrective” as opposed to preventative bias in the Boorman Review – as summarised in Healthy Concerns (February 3rd). And I am in despair at their agreement with the ninth recommendation, which includes the ludicrous pronouncement that musculoskeletal and mental health conditions are the main causes of ill-health in the NHS workforce. So, nothing to do with the way things are organised then?
    How can a condition be a cause? Where is the demand by the panel for systemic causes? The very least they could have done would have been to go back to the brilliant study conducted by Prof Reg Revans about fifty years ago. He concluded that the length of in-patient stay was directly correlated to staff turnover, morale and absenteeism; and that the linking factor was the availability of timely nursing information. In my experience of the NHS this is still the case. Did the panel even consider this, or any other, systemic possibility? If not it is very, very, old thinking.”
    Finally, the only paper to report the death of Russell Ackoff properly, if at all, in the USA and UK was The Economist. Not much hope there either, then.

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