Much of the media isn’t covering the grotesque transformation of journalism into corporate public relations – well, they’re all in on it, aren’t they? – but the latest example is really rich. The Guardian – that lefty, anti-corporate, “comment-is-free” trans-Atlantic behemoth – is now merging with Unilever to produce “content”. What does that mean exactly? Well, follow the newspeak:
Guardian News and Media has signed a seven-figure deal to provide content about sustainability under the brand of household goods giant Unilever. It is the first deal for the new Guardian Labs division – which describes itself as a “branded content and innovation agency which offers brands bold and compelling new ways to tell their stories and engage with influential Guardian audiences”.
Guardian Labs employ some 133 staff including designers, video producers, writers and strategists who will work with The Guardian’s editorial, marketing and digital development teams.
A “content and innovation” agency. Helping “brands … tell their stories.” This is called public relations, guys. There’s nothing new or innovative about it whatsoever. What’s new is the deliberate attempt to merge this industry with journalism itself and to disguise the difference with bullshit. Smell the ordure:
The Guardian partnership with Unilever is said to be “centred on the shared values of sustainable living and open storytelling”.
Who knew that the giant manufacturer of such products as Axe Body Spray, Vaseline and Ben and Jerry’s has long been committed to “open story-telling,” whatever the fuck that means? Then check this out:
Anna Watkins, managing director, Guardian Labs said: “Our partnership with Unilever is a fantastic example of collaboration based on our shared values. Right from the start we brainstormed ideas, working across the whole of the Guardian, and built the campaign together. It represents a truly original way of working.”
So the entire paper is to be filled with a p.r. campaign disguised as journalism, in order to promote Unilever’s image as a green company. That’s called corporate propaganda. The key to all this is the old and simple trick of deceiving readers into thinking they are reading journalism when they are actually reading p.r. – especially when a single page can travel alone through the Interwebs and seem to most readers to be a Guardian article. And the end of all this will be the growing gnawing sense among Guardian readers that, unless they are very careful, they will have a very tough time telling the difference.