Monday, February 10, 2014

Speaking truth to power

The Internet is said to be killing off professional journalism. As with sport and business and many other professions the gap between the top of the tree- the millionaire columnists (or centre forwards or CEOs) and and the journeyman hack (or sub editor or middle manager) has widened by a factor of a hundred in the past two decades. The difference is that the bottom of journalism is now essentially unpaid. Perhaps that is also become true elsewhere, but the number of unpaid internships in the media seems still to be rather ahead of other sectors. Journalists are now more or less exclusively drawn from the wealthy- usually privately school educated- middle class. Whereas a Brian Redhead say or a Walter Cronkite established journalism as a trusted profession, the emergence of agenda- driven journalism in the mold set by Rupert Murdoch brought hard nosed economics and even harder nosed opinions to the business of establishing and reporting facts.

Yet there is an interesting paradox- as it has grown ever cheaper to report- either for print or broadcast media- from around the world, so reporting, instead of growing broader, has in fact grown narrower. The dishevelled but expert foreign correspondent- a figure of some glamour during the Vietnam war- has given way to well groomed but rather vacuous figures, as parodied by The Day Today or Drop the Dead Donkey

The descent of journalism has reached ludicrous levels in the past four weeks. Whereas once the issues raised by the rebellion in Ukraine would have been addressed as being of major significance to our own position, now the level of knowledge is assumed to be zero and therefore interest is assumed to zero too. The result has been the insane spectacle of the weather becoming the major- indeed often the only- news story. In the past three months weather stories have been on the front pages of newspapers more than five times more than any other story.

As the trial of the Murdoch editorial team drags on in the London courts, the grubby details of the corruption of Murdoch and his business ethics remind us again and again: journalism has lost its way, and with it a major source of healthy dissent has been lost. Journalists, a small and self satisfied clique, can no longer speak truth to power. The media have been corrupted by greed, incompetence and the pathetically low expectations of our society. 

You might as well subscribe to the Meteorological Office email as bother to read the tripe that masquerades as journalistic integrity these days. Any headline with capitals in (When will the weather ever END. More wet weather NEXT WEEK, etc.) can be ignored. 

In fact while you are at it, ignore the lot. 

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