A letter from the founder and Chair of Human Capital Forum, Philip Whiteley, to the letters pages of totalpolitics, sums up how many readers of The Observer feel about the enforced departure of Simon Caulkin’s management column from the pages of the paper’s business section.
The decision by The Observer to drop the Simon Caulkin column on management is probably the worst decision I have witnessed in more than 20 years in publishing. It raises serious worries about the quality and depth of debate in our media.
Second only to Vince Cable, he has been the most consistent and intelligent commentator on the contributory factors that lay behind the credit crisis. The Observer’s appalling decision reveals two unfortunate prejudices at the heart of media and politics. Firstly, the assumption that issues of governance and management are minor or fringe issues; secondly that quality newspapers have to court celebrities and drop informed comment in order to stay viable.
Turning to the first matter, while economics correspondents like Robert Peston are feted and given prime slots, they are only ever reporting on the effects of economic decisions made by institutions and individuals. Simon Caulkin analysed the core underlying ideology that causes economic events. This is far more important for understanding how to prevent a repeat of the crisis that we are living through. The mechanistic modelling, treatment of people as resources, obsession with the short-term, and management by targets in the public sector are all symptoms of the sick ideology that has driven management culture, which Simon brilliantly dissected. This is not a left-right issue: the ideology appals many conservative Board members and school-masters, as well as the trade union activist.
Secondly, to what extent are we losing a quality press in this country? When I see the likes of Frank Skinner and David Mitchell given prime spots, I wonder: would The Observer of the 1940s have replaced George Orwell with Tommy Trinder? And how would that have helped, exactly?
I co-ordinated the signatures for a joint letter of protest to The Observer about the decision. Over a weekend, I received 60 vehement voices of support.
If anyone wishes to join the campaign for proper coverage of management, and to arrest the decline of formerly quality newspapers, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Chair of the Human Capital Forum London
It seems to me that no amount of huffing and puffing from readers is likely to arrest the decline of newspapers. The best and brightest are slowly beginning to realise that newspaper as we know it is in decline and that if as writers they intend to become professional commentators, they will find ways other than through newspapers of bringing their work to the attention of the public.