Fox News is a conservative US news channel accused of promoting a politically charged issue they knew to be a lie because that’s what their viewers were demanding.

Evidence shows Fox’s audience wanted to believe the fantasy that Donald Trump had been cheated out of the presidency, and Fox News, alarmed at viewers disliking the truth and switching channels, went along with the lie and even promoted it.

Murdoch-controlled Fox News has a huge conservative audience in the US of somewhere around 2.2 million. But that’s in a country of 331 million. Fox was afraid of losing audience share to smaller “news” organisations with even looser approaches to the truth.

The reason was money. Audiences attract advertising, and the bigger the audience the more advertising revenue. It’s a permanent law of publishing.
Australia has quite a lot of channels of various types and inclinations distributing news and information, and the rush to fill the spaces with stuff people want to watch or listen to – who in turn attract advertisers – has seen “news” increasingly becoming entertainment.

Because entertainment doesn’t need research or fact-checking, just people to write the stuff – although the chatbot revolution will change that situation.

For example, articles about the competitors in “Married at First Sight”, a TV show featuring young couples fuelled-up with self-entitlement and alcohol, usually attract lots of click-throughs, as long as the headline drags them in.

Which brings me to insurance. Before the turn of the century the insurance industry didn’t have much access to news and information that related specifically to them and their work.

By the time we set up the online Insurance News in 2008 – the magazine launched the following year – I could pare down all I have learned in a long career in news and corporate life into one simple conclusion: clear, relevant and timely information helps professionals understand the issues and make better business decisions.

For the mainstream media, insurance is a mystery, rarely mentioned without negativity by reporters who will cover a claims issue today and a road accident or a retail scam tomorrow. It’s all about the emotions.

Very few generalist journalists understand insurance, how it works and what it does. Most of those who do work for Insurance News. The rest are usually to be found in the dailies’ business pages, where they focus mostly on the listed companies and generally do a great job of it.

The melding of news and entertainment is common, and eventually it found its way to the insurance industry. So how can we ignore a competitor publication that’s working to the same audience as Insurance News engages in practices that we see as counter-productive to the industry’s reputation and health?

I refer of course to our competitor, the satellite branch of an international company that puts the “show” into “business” publishing.

Let’s be clear from the start. We welcome competition – it keeps us focused on the job at hand – and we don’t welcome having to criticise a competitor, especially when its audience reach is already so much smaller than our own.

So this Maglog is not aimed at their Philippines-based reporters, or their news articles, but at the publication’s constant stream of “awards” and “recognitions”. They’re not just a harmless bit of warped fun like “Married at First Sight”.

Celebrating the skills and achievements of individual insurance professionals and their companies is good. The annual ANZIIF Awards, for example, are rigorously judged by entrants’ industry peers – although we wish it didn’t have to be based on voluntary submissions. NIBA also has awards for brokers and insurers selected by an internal process.

But who judges the “Elite 50” or “Top Brokerages” or “Rising Stars” or any of the other long lists our competitor spews out? Apparently there are surveys to select winners, but we can’t find any mention of how many people participate in these surveys. From what we’ve been able to discover from individuals included on these lists, the judging process is, to be polite, opaque.

We don’t know how many of these submissions are checked or judged by relevant professionals, but it’s obvious from talking to previous participants that any process they undertake isn’t rigorous. If that’s the case, how does the publication know entrants aren’t exaggerating their achievements and value?

Never mind, your picture gets published and your company’s name goes up in lights.

It’s all a bit of harmless, if cynical, show business.

If there’s an event attached, you’ll be invited to invest in a table, because you wouldn’t want to miss out on being there when you’re named. Then when you “win” or are listed or whatever, you’ll be offered (for another investment) materials you can splatter on your correspondence and advertising.

And that’s where we have a problem. Some of the award winners are people and companies that we agree deserve accolades. But there are some that simply don’t belong in any “elite” list. The difficulty is in telling the difference. Or perhaps that’s the “show” in the business.

How could a potential client looking at a brokerage bedecked by “winner” plaques be sure the company really is what the award says it is?

And that brings us back to the first law of publishing. Are these awards and lists about anything other than money? Judge for yourself.