After graduating from the University of Bath with a business degree, Gary worked in the technology industry. He then became a business journalist and a corporate PR, and went on to teach business journalism at Cardiff University. It was perhaps inevitable, therefore, that Gary's choice of PhD topic would involve business journalism.


It took some time to fine tune the focus of his thesis, but the eureka moment came on September 15 2008 when Gary watched a succession of incredulous TV journalists report the collapse of Lehman Brothers. 'Why is it,' he asked, 'that I have a whole shelf of books from eminent authors that have been predicting a crash for years, and yet not one of these highly-respected journalists appears to be aware of any of them?'


After six years of part-time study under the supervision of Professor James Curran at Goldsmiths, Gary was awarded his PhD in August 2015.  Gary's next step as a researcher is to find a publisher for the thesis, and then to pursue similar themes and methods to explore how contemporary political and social movements - such as Occupy and Stop the War Coalition - and their arguments are represented by the news media.


Gary has only had one academic article published so far - in the journal, Ethical Space - but he hopes to establish himself as an authority in his niche through publishing, teaching, talks and more empirical research. These aspirations were boosted when Gary was invited to make a submission to the forthcoming Puttnam Inquiry which will analyse the 'nature, purpose and role of public service television today and into the future.'

Through the analysis of over 1,600 articles from four British news organisations, this thesis reveals distinct patterns in the political content of economic and business news in the first decade of the 21st century.


In each of the three case studies – economic globalisation; private finance and public services; and Tesco - the Telegraph newspapers, The Times and the Sunday Times were overtly supportive of laissez faire, the primacy of profit, and reduced government regulation. The Guardian-Observer gave some exposure and credence to ideas from the left but tended to exclude the more radical thinking.


Although the BBC is often accused of having a left-wing/anti-business bias, this thesis demonstrates that its reporting has far more in common with the right-wing newspapers than the generally progressive Guardian-Observer.


Two further empirical chapters, based on interviews with 26 journalists and editors, explain these findings. The first describes the convergence of the mainstream news media around a shared set of deeply-entrenched assumptions and working practices that are hardwired to reproduce elite interpretations of the economic environment.


The second explanatory chapter explores the concept of house tradition, and considers the extent of political divergence of the four mainstream news providers, and contrasts their positions with those of four ‘alternative’ news organisations, the New Statesman, the New Internationalist, Corporate Watch and Private Eye.

Convergence and Divergence:

a study of British economic

and business journalism


copyright - GJ Merrill - 2016

PhD Thesis - Abstract




Journalism research is generally only read by scholars and yet it can be extremely enlightening and valuable to a much broader audience. The same tried-and-tested academic methods could, for example, be used by NGOs, trade unions or other political entities to produce empirical evidence of the effectiveness of campaigns. Equally, the methodical, systematic study of the news media can illustrate how arguments and individuals are represented.


If your organisation needs a clearer understanding of how effectively - and accurately - your message is being covered by journalists, Gary can design and implement a suitable research project. This will culminate in a written report that can be used to plan, improve and execute more effective campaigns. Gary can also make recommendations based on his understanding of how journalism works, from the perspectives of a practitioner, a teacher and a researcher. For an informal discussion, please contact Gary directly.

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