The role of the small number of journalists on Octo Members

Octo Members
14 October 2019

After one or two interesting discussions on Twitter recently, I thought I would put together a few thoughts on the presence of journalists on Octo Members.

Essentially, this involves me and my colleague Samantha Shaw. We don’t – quite – behave as journalists when present on this website.

What we do is ‘journalesque’ in that we try and bring our several decades or so writing about financial services and especially adviser issues to bear with comments, analysis and interviews.

I don’t think we ever envisage breaking news and certainly keep our criticisms of companies within the realms of fair comment (I don’t mean in a legal sense but in a broader sense) as it would feel odd having to offer a right of reply for use on a closed website.

We aren’t trying to ape the trade websites, but we will occasionally critique them or point out some issues that might have been missed under pressure of them pumping out such a large number of emails and stories a day with significantly fewer staff than in the past.

Yet there is one very big difference for me and Sam in terms of our work on Octo. We don’t relate what is being discussed here by members in any other places whether that is social media or trade or national media. It would negate one of the reasons for having a closed social network where people are free to debate.

Wearing our ‘full’ journalists’ hats, for say Corporate Adviser, Global Investment Megatrends, Investment Week or Trustnet, we’ll contact you in the outside world, making our intent and the distinction very clear.

In other words, no one is going to quote what you say inside the electronic walls of Octo anywhere outside those electronic walls.

In addition, with one or two exceptions for guest blogs, such as Robin Powell and Adam Lewis, journalists are generally excluded from the site, though there have, of course, been a significant number of requests to join.

No one likes to not be invited to a party.

While I am quite sure that say Jo Cumbo or Annie Shaw would make a great contribution, many others who shall remain nameless might not. To use the current hot potato of a story, there is reason to criticise the behaviour of some national journalists over the issues surrounding Woodford so, in my view, it is good to have a place like this.

The other extremely important thing about Octo Members is the requirement to say who you are and not be able to have an avatar. No doubt some people use this sort of identity on open social media for humour, satire, to promote a brand or maybe just because they are shy!

Yet these are fractious times, and it’s amazing how easy it is for arguments to break out. I have seen this even among advisers over what strike me as very, very small differences, the advice equivalent of debates about what end of the boiled egg to crack open in the morning. (The small end – you philistines!)

On Octo Members, we are trying to avoid too many of these arguments but even if we do have the odd full and frank discussion, I think it is an essential element that it is full, frank but that it is not anonymous.

Actually, I have some self-imposed rules for reporting comments made on open social media which I may discuss a little in another post, but we assure you that neither Sam nor I will take your views anywhere else.

Your views on this post are appreciated and they will, of course, stay within Octo.


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