The most surprising thing about this News of the World business is the original research that they spent so much effort and money on!
I thought that the current definition of “newspaper” was “a place where corporations and lobbyists pay to have their press releases published”. Well, here’s one that seems to have not worked that way.
Aside from their research methods being illegal and probably immoral, that’s a little bit like journalism, isn’t it?
Journalism | jwz (sorry I quoted the whole thing.)
I’ve been reading Flat Earth News by Nick Davies1 (available from Amazon.
Flat Earth News does a great job - though one-sided towards large media because of their longer reach - of tracking the demise of the newsroom coupled with the explosion in news outlets and the resulting drop in quality and quantity of news delivered. Reporters now often don’t have the resources to break stories or check sources. Many rely solely on the wires (AP and Reuters in America, and PA in the UK) or PR from businesses to craft their stories. Foreign bureaus and local reporters have been eliminated and “stories-due” increased. Many smaller newsshops require their reporters to film and edit their own footage before it airs (which explains much of the bad local reporting that shows up on Youtube).
Your news is being written like a fifth-grader’s paper on snakes copied off Wikipedia and re-jiggered enough to be original. Most of the news is exactly the same from paper to paper globally. In a 2006 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Google News (which only aggregates) claimed 14,000 stories, which reduced down to only 24 news events, being reported and re-reported - turtles all the way down.
Journalism, and writing in general, are weapons - read Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis - but only if they’re kept in ready shape. Words can create or destroy transparency and truth - “We’ve always been at war with East Asia.” “The WMDs were not the reason we invaded Iraq.”
The most horrifying thing I’ve read in Davies book is that many papers don’t staff the courts or build relationships with the police anymore. The only news they publish is what comes through the PR arm of the justice system - the definition of propaganda.
There won’t be a piece on increased burglaries or rapes near campuses, or corrupt cops, or the wealthy/famous getting a pass on the system entirely2 unless it’s passed on by the authorities. The only news we’ll hear is what the government and corporations3 want us to hear.
It’s sad that one of the few organizations doing research and tracking down stories was so morally bankrupt - they weren’t doing it for the news but for the scoop and the resulting profit. NewsCorp helped lead the charge into profits over truth, trimming staff to boost the bottom line - Murdoch’s choices over the years have forced evolution onto journalists to the point that some likely see nothing wrong with the actions of NotW except their getting caught. Those reporters were under the same pressures and deadlines as others and chose to let the panopticon do their research for them and in doing so they turned their weapon on the people.
Happy (late) Bastille Day.
Davies often writes for the Guardian who are the chaps, along with Hugh Grant (bugging the buggers!), most responsible for publicizing the fall of the Murdochs - possibly because they are the only (hyperbole-alert) newspaper in the UK not owned by NewsCorp. ↩
How many passes did Lindsey Lohan get on her behavior that an inner-city minority woman would have been jailed for? ↩
Which are now people in some cases and thus subject to many fewer controls than before - consider this. ↩