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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Inside the news media

A comment from "Ryan" on the previous post is too good not to feature up-front (hope you don't mind, Ryan):

My sister is a journalist, but stays away from the nationals. She points out that the big papers get all their real news from Reuters and the local papers, then work it up into a much bigger story. They don't employ many real reporters or journalists - its too expensive. They prefer talking heads that can offer news-views which add a narrative to a story dug up by someone else and which matches the editorial line of the paper.

My sister also tells me that the papers have dirt on almost every public figure, but they CHOOSE who to turn over. This gives them enormous power over those that they chose to support - they can make you king one day and pauper the next. You can see they do this all the time with celebs, building them up one year and tearing them down the next, but we never imagine that they employ the same tactics with politicians - but they do.

She used to tell me all the tactics that papers would use to tell a story their way with their own spin on it. For instance, how often have you seen a phrase along the lines of "A spokesman said"? No name given. Why? It means the line was made up by the writer and attributed to someone real to give it substance. "A spokesmon", "unnamed sources", "A source within the Labour party" etc etc etc. Yes, they may all refer to a real person - but they could just have been made up by the journo to get his opinion across whilst making it sound like he has his finger on the pulse.

She showed me a story that she sold to the Guardian for £50. It was one column inch. The Guardian worked it up to half a page - all of it made up and based on opinion. She was pissed off: "I should have got £2500 if the story had really been that big!"

Take a story, remove the bits that are attributable to named sources - and what is left is usually made up. The attributable bit has probably come right from Reuters. That's why I don't read papers anymore and rarely watch TV news. Its 90% made up by wet-behind-the- ears kids that know nothing about the world we live in but make up a narrative for the news that suits their editor.

Can anyone else give us any more on the ways of journalists and the news media, please?


Wolfie said...

It get worse but its more than my life's worth.

Sackerson said...

Ah, go'wan, ya fraidy cat. No names, no packdrill, but dish us the dirt!

Nick Drew said...

a relative of mine was an absolutely top-ranking journo, rarely off the front page of one of Fleet Street's biggest organs in its heyday. His war stories kept me spellbound as a young naïf.

- when a cub crime reporter, his success-rate in solving several high-profile crimes (by the simple expedient of setting up shop in a dodgy nearby pub and buying drinks lavishly) was rather greater than Inspector Knacker's

- more to the point: even in his later, exalted rank, on some stories the Proprietor's 'line' would be established before any fact-gathering commenced. This revolved around how the Proprietor judged the thought-processes of Middle England (from a distant vantage-point) and what he felt they liked to read: the Prop deemed them to be patriotic but otherwise mean-spirited

- he definitely had 100 times more dirt on the Great & the Good, from the Highest In The Land downwards, than ever saw the light of day (he sometimes vouchsafed such info to me, some of which I would years later see confirmed)

(hell, I myself was editor of a mere student rag, and on 3 occasions I got stories of national significance which essentially I had to suppress)

- Private Eye is the beneficiary of this process: no-one likes their hard-won stories being spiked, so it's off to Soho for a quiet drink ...

- a percentage of 'readers letters' are in fact written by the journos (he still turned his hand to this occasionally all through his career) because papers don't get enough of the stereotypical sort of letter they like to publish

- ditto the horoscopes, often written by trainee reporters to engage their imaginations and taut writing skills

I Could Go On ...