Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Normal service is resumed

Right, sorry about that peeps...I'm an idiot, I published when I meant to save and I'm too lazy to lark about cutting and pasting so you'll have to read the second half of my rant as follows....

"Scandal or controversy beats ordinary reporting hands down", asserts Mr Blair - er, surely it depends on the event and the paper covering it...? As I said, I'm not denying/defending the sensationalist streak of broadsheets, tabloids, freesheets, whatever, they have to vamp up events to make good copy. Every paper has its own readership to think about - different people want different information from their paper. The Telegraph's mostly middle-class, centre right readership will get stuck into a story about the Government's black hole IT funding, whereas The Sun won't give it an inch of column space. Instead The Sun may run a story on some washed up popstar accused of cross dressing at the weekends. Each story will have a hyped up headline for their readers but the copy will still have to be comprised of "ordinary reporting" - getting the facts and figures right.

Tony goes on to decry the practice of media comment - this has me livid. "The new technique is commentary on the news being as, if not more important than the news itself". "Opinion and fact should be clearly divisible." Shall we just shut down the presses and servers and have one universal news outlet (regulated by whom...?), with no opinion? I read comment pieces on a daily basis, if the subject interests me. What's the point of being fed news if you can't put it into some kind of context? How do others feel and how does this affect me? And I enjoy reading an opinion piece that blends fact, the author's personal comment and entertaining prose, even if I don't agree with the argument. I am not stupid Mr Blair, I can work out what is fact and what is subjective journalism.

"Stories, are all black and white", "Some good, some bad" is not the way things are done, everything is critical. Methinks the PM is getting a little over sensitive and perhaps needs to read some more balanced comment, I assure him it's out there.

"Viewers or readers have no objective yardstick to measure what they are being told". Sure but the same goes for official information. Human beings are real buggers, huh? Subjective, biased, always trying to spin the best story they can. Though as a result, we tend to know how much bullshit we can tolerate and are able to make rational choices about what we believe to be true.

I sympathise with Mr Blair's attempt to address the balance between the media and politics (good timing, might I add) but I do not think, "we are all being dragged down by the way media and public life interact". I agree, coverage is often unbalanced, much reporting is critical of politicians and the media can and should do more to get the public involved in the political process. But Mr Blair's protestations and likening of the British media to a "feral beast" are childish. Ultimately, there's no smoke without fire.

Right, I'm off to go and see what today's press has made of the lecture....


James said...

Very interesting article Em, of which I could discuss in much greater detail than I’m about to but here is just a few comments.

· I don’t think a culture in which politicians are constantly scared of a backlash works for anyone except the media organisations. In commerce people are encouraged to take calculated risks where mistakes are expected. Working in an organisation where one single slip up and your whole career is on the line is counter productive.

· If the media is so balanced shouldn’t they treat all people with the same standards irrespective of whether their subject matter flips and flops about.

· I did cringe a little when Blair talked about commentary being more important than news itself. Newspapers especially will have to be come more commentary based as they are no longer the breaker of news. Unfortunately many people do find it difficult to separate the two though.

· As ever there are many valid sides to an argument, none more so than the points raised by Blair but I believe somehow that the media, politicians and the public do need to come closer together and build trust amongst each other. Any ideas?

Em said...

Yep - more media cooperative/savy press officers. I've had to speak to a number of government departments (not to mention the two that I've worked in, urgh..) about all sorts, from immigration to the state of neonatal care. They were cagey and rude. As a result my articles focused on the word of people on the ground, which was almost universally negative, without a balanced government response - tough for them then!

I went to Westminister to watch and take part in a debate on why political parties are loosing their appeal. Both politicians and journalists agreed we need to restore some kind of working relationship, sharing info and campaigns. The politicians (with the exception of a Con. peer...) all shied away from building bridges with the media (probably thinking they'd get screwed). The journalists wanted joint action, shared responsibility, the officials wanted to be shown in a better light but weren't prepared to do anything about it at their end - I know this was an isolated incident, not representative of all public/media relations but it made me angry.

I don't believe things are as dire as Blair makes out - he's peeved because almost all the coverage in he gets in the old broadsheets is negative atm - you reep what you sow, this man has failed to deliver on many issues. Mismanagement is obvious (more fast track legislation and reshuffles etc..) in many areas but its not endemic. The media grumbles because it can but we're in a period of transition. I think there will be tangible changes in political coverage in the coming weeks and months.

But something that needs to remembered about the British media is that despite the commercial interests and leanings of publishers - 90 per cent journalists are just curious humans who do their best to inform the public by passing on their findings and feelings on the issues of the day. If the vibes their getting from those in power are bad, their reports will reflect that. ~shrugs~

Em said...

I must apologise for my rubbish spelling, it's painfull at times (I get over-excited and don't check stuff).

James said...

Well clearly you have had a closer look at the politics/media relationship, than myself so it is very interesting to hear your opinions.

Still it was an interesting speech which stirred some even more interesting debate and fortunately for everyone I'm not going to reiterate my views again as I think I'm done with the subject for now.

As for the spelling, well I didn't pick up any errors which must say something about my reading skills. I recently found out that the Mozilla Firefox browser has a inbuilt spellchecker, which checks everything you type on the web much like Word (with the red underline thingy), which is a bonus.

Now if they could just invent something that would correct my utter drivel and turn it into some interesting profound prose then I should be fine.