Journos and PROs aren’t chalk and cheese

When I read the quotes from the journalists quitting Editorial Intelligence – Julia Hobsbawm's project to bring PROs and hacks closer together – I believed it to be an April Fools' Day prank.

Hobsbawm is someone I admire tremendously, having first met her when she ran a successful PR agency, Hobsbawm Macauley, with the Chancellor's wife, Sarah. So when she launched Editorial Intelligence (EI) last November with the aim of legitimising the covert relationship between PR and journalists, I simply thought: why not?

But Hobsbawm has been the victim of journalists whose egos and desire for self-publicity appears greater than their writing ability. Having helped set up her formal network, some of the same journalists have tried their best to scupper the enterprise.

Elsewhere, The Spectator chief executive Andrew Neil has written: 'If we as journalists are to do our jobs properly we have to keep our distance from PROs.' Could this be the same Andrew Neil who enjoyed a bevvy or three with me when I was adviser to Gordon Brown? And I was an evil spin doctor, not even a reputable PR chap.

It is Spectator columnist Rod Liddle who takes the biscuit though. He has become his very own PR machine since leaving the BBC, so was certain to join in with his own juicy soundbite. 'EI is a disgusting idea which suggests that journalists might be up for hire,' he ranted last week.

Could this be the same Rod Liddle who secretly plotted with me so as to give Radio 4's Today programme – of which he was editor at the time – a high-profile exclusive from Brown? We announced on his programme that Labour would keep income tax at Tory levels, having tipped him off in advance.

I am not quite sure why so many other journalists have decided to join in the attack on Hobsbawm, but I suspect it has something to do with her alleged role in David Blunkett's downfall.  As a friend of Kimberly Quinn, she was accused of helping Blunkett's former lover handle the media. The former home secretary has many media friends, but he was not a match for Hobsbawm/Quinn. Now some of Blunkett's pals see an opportunity to get even. I also suspect that some journos can't bear the fact that PROs often earn more than them. Which may be why so many ex-editors end up in PR.

No doubt Liddle will use PR to promote his next book and Neil will continue to employ PROs at his publications. It's about time some hacks recognised that journalists and PROs need each other. Sensible co-operation is just common sense.

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