Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bark: When reporters become the story

I'd say that I've got a fairly healthy distrust of the news media. Because I'm naturally a very curious person, or even an information-junkie, I like to have more than one point of reference when I find out things. So in my bookmarks I have at least six news agencies to look at, rather than just relying on one, in order to get a broader picture of what's really going on. Of course, all this means is that I simply confirm my suspicion that everyone just simply cut-and-pastes their news reports from Reuters...

One trend that appears to be increasing is when news agencies start reporting on themselves rather than reporting the news. Take the recent furore over telephone phone-ins at the BBC or the Queen photo session 'scandal'.

Does anyone really care? I pretty sure that the only people whose 'trust in the BBC will be shaken' are the kind of people who are stupid enough to take part in telephone phone-ins or take whatever the media says at face value to begin with. i.e. the people who don't have the capacity for independent, rational thought.

Is that being mean? Perhaps, but there are far more important things to spend precious minutes of a 30 minute evening newscast on than whether a BBC researcher posed as a contestant in a TV phone-in. You know... important things, like global warming, genocide in Darfur, poverty and exploitation in Asia, industrial pollution killing off huge swathes of life in the Gulf of Mexico, the invention of a genuinely intelligent and useful bionic hand...

The BBC aren't alone in the self-reporting stakes, either. Channel 4 and ITN are just as bad - all this prattling on about how good or how bad a job they're doing, public apologies, hand-wringing or back-slapping - it's not relevant. It's not important. It's self-promotion by another means, and it annoys the hell out of me. The job of a journalist is to report news, not make it. Even worse is the growing trend of "citizen journalism" - most news agencies seem to want the public to do all the hard work of reporting for them. "Send in photos, send in videos from your mobile phones! Then we don't actually have to do any work at all anymore!"

No wonder most news journalists these days have a poorer reputation than politicians and 'no-win-no-fee' lawyers... whatever happened to good, old investigative journalism, eh? Like most people's social skills or sense of polite etiquette, it got killed by the mobile phone, it seems...
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