There was bad news for footballers the world over recently, as a fourteen-paragraph news article written by two Daily Mail journalists ranked the sportsmen lowest in the ‘sexy profession’ charts:
Sorry Becks, women have rated the sexiest professions … and ‘vain and over-confident’ footballers come last
Previously it has been assumed that most women would jump at the opportunity to date David Beckham, but not if the latest research is anything to go by.
A new survey asked women what they thought the sexiest profession was for a partner and the top result has been revealed as a musician or artist, while footballers come last with just 1 per cent of voters finding the athletic profession sexy.
There was no appearance in the list, of course, for journalists, but I’m sure the pair at the Daily Mail – Andrea Childs and bad-pr regular Bianca London – fare perfectly well for themselves.
Quite why it took two professional journalists to pen fourteen paragraphs of copy isn’t clear – especially when the copy came from a press release by extramarital ‘dating’ website IllicitEncounters:
How much of the fourteen-paragraph news article came from the press release, and how much from the two professional journalists credited with writing it? Churnalism.com has the answers…
That’s just 29% of the news story coming from the professionals at the Daily Mail – or just less than 15% each. The rest was penned by IllicitEncounters’ PR guy Mike Taylor, who defended his work to me over Twitter:
“It’s not for me to decide what is actual news but as for the research I can assure you of it’s (sic) legitimacy”
This, I think, is where the world of Bad PR gets interesting. Let’s for a moment leave aside the belief that the research is legitimate (Mike may well believe it is, but very valid issues exist around cherry-picking, leading question wording, self-selected sample groups, poor polling methodology and – in the case of surveys via companies such as OnePoll – the incentivisation of participants to take part in surveys not designed for them, and to spend as little time as possible on their participation).
Instead, let’s take a look at where the responsibility lies here. Who is the bad guy? Is it Mike Taylor, creating opportunistic pseudo-articles (‘Isn’t it time we had a more progressive Pope?‘ asks find-and-fuck dating website) in order to get his client into the press? Isn’t that just Mike’s job, and as he rightly says there ought to be someone out there filtering out the nonsense created by people like him?
How about Bianca London and Andrea Childs – isn’t it their responsibility to write better stories, to ignore useless PR puff-pieces such as this nonsense from IllicitEncounters, to use their platform to find real stories and report what’s really important? Or is it that, as a primarily fashion journalist, Bianca is instead repeatedly tasked with producing inordinate levels of content for the largest and least discerning online publication in the world, including 13 articles between February 14-15 alone, and in August last year as many as 101 articles in a single month? How would even the best of journalists keep up standards under such conditions?
Perhaps it’s the fault of the newspaper – shouldn’t the Mail Online put a stop to the damaging ‘publish anything’ mentality which pressurises journalists into the open arms of PR types from seedy websites and lowers the standards of journalism across the board? Or is it that in a world of free online news and falling revenues, the anything-goes publishing mentality keeps the advertising revenue stream profitable and facilitates the little genuine journalism that remains, as the newspaper survives as a profit-making enterprise?
The real blame, unfortunately, has to lie a little with each of these, and yet ultimately with none of them. The news system is broken, and even as each cog in the machine quietly turns correctly in its own direction, the entire news machine drives further over the cliff.