Thursday, June 10, 2010

today ...more speed

If the news media IS speeding up all the time, it also seems to be contracting. Like any business, consolidation makes economic sense. Watch any of the three 24 hour news channels available in the UK - BBC, SKY and CNN and they are pretty much the same. Okay, so CNN is not UK focused so does wander off a bit, but all the stories are the same, all the angles are the same and I quite often finding myself thinking where the original journalism has gone. Because with 24 whole hours a day to fill, almost all of it is filled with what is coming in on the newswires and what is in the newspapers (all but one owned by proprietors with an agenda, stealthily undermining the fairness and balance rules of public broadcasting).

The BBC does have chunks of original content, such as Matt Frei's reports from Rio when World News America did a week there and some of the material was recut for UK broadcast, They also have HardTalk, On The Record, Reporters, Click etc. But these are tucked away at the weekend and late at night.

All news begins to look the same and sound the same. Crucially it has the same content.

I don't know whether there was some mythical golden age of original journalism and investigative reporting in the past. Actually I don't really care. What worries me is that, as news contracts, knowledge and opinion is under threat. Where there should me more in-depth journalism, we have more and more 'churnalism' and superficial reporting.

A few months ago, Charlie Brooker showed an excellent montage of clips on his Newswatch show. It was financial correspondents trying to explain 'quantititive easing'. All of them failed in a hilarious and embarrassing manner. Some tried to make simple metaphors and visual representations to help us, the stupid public, understand. Some of them sounded as if they really didn't understand the idea themselves.

There is also the influence of the news cycle on politics. How many times have we heard a review being announced in the past decade? It's the de rigeur way of deflecting a bad news story without actually taking action. All that needs to happen is the appearance of action until the next story comes along in 24 hours or so.

Either that or speedily announce a resignation or a change in the law. Anything to shut down the negative feeding frenzy. Gordon Brown was fatally wounded by this endless disapproval from the press and media - death from a thousand tuts.

It was interesting to see that the Coalition's response to the Cumbria Murders was to insist that they would take no hasty action on gun control. I wonder of they have learned the lesson of quick but shoddy laws that began with the dangerous dogs act and has continued ever since.

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