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Monday 16 March 2020

Media On Trial

It is not only those of little intellectual substance in the pundit class who are facing exposure during the Covid-19 outbreak, but most of our free and fearless press and their hangers-on. When the public out there demands information, it is the worst possible response to do a Number Six and tell them “You won’t get it”.
This poses a problem that some in the press may find insurmountable: to stop behaving as if their industry were engaged in some kind of jolly spectator sport, where they back the winners and lord it over the chosen losers, who will have been on the receiving end of the customary monstering and smears. This time, there are no winners or losers. This time, the press, whisper it quietly, needs to concentrate on actually doing real journalism.
Professor Brian Cathcart has summed up the situation: “With [Covid-19] journalism confronts a historic challenge. It's a matter of life and death. More than ever, therefore, journalists have an obligation to inform the public accurately and responsibly. More than ever, people need trustworthy information … the requirements of readers and viewers must come first. Nothing else matters … Because getting it wrong may kill”.
There is more. “This does *not* mean that journalists should slavishly promote government policy. Even if that policy was in line with consensus it would have to be questioned. But given that UK policy is aberrant in international terms, journalists must force ministers to justify it … Whether ministers can or can not justify their policy convincingly … is not fit subject matter for speculation by news reporters or those producing instant tweets”.
Quite. Do go on. “As for dodgy sourcing ('a senior government source' etc), it is almost never appropriate, but when so many lives are at stake it is monstrous and shameful. Journalists need to be rigorously clear to their readers and viewers who is saying what, and on what authority”. His words may have initially fallen on deaf ears.
The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr picked up on BuzzFeed News’ Emily Ashton reporting from Downing Street. “Who is the spokesman? Why is this a lobby briefing? We need to see the questions & answers being put. NHS healthworkers on front line say they have no access to testing. What does 'key focus' mean? There's no reason for this to be happening off-camera”. Still the “No 10 spokesman”. Old habits dying hard.
Ms Ashton, to her credit, responded “It's the usual daily lobby briefing with spokesman James Slack. Press conference happening this afternoon with more info on this”. But the point is made. We need to know who is saying what. We also need to know on what authority those pontificating on the current crisis are speaking.
As Prof Cathcart has put it, it really is, for many consumers of news, a matter of life and death. Perhaps our media class should remember the words of Edward Grey, then Foreign Secretary, spoken on the eve of the outbreak of The Great War: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”.

For many readers and viewers, the lamps will never be lit again. It is the least our press and its hangers-on can do for them - to actually do some straight journalism for once.
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Anonymous said...

Blah blah fucking blah...
Too late.

Cathcart trying to say what I have said all along?

Too late for you lot too!

Anonymous said...

Won't happen, Tim.

Just. Won't. Happen.

Media are infested with low life tory jobsworths and gobshites.

Don't buy their cowardly garbage. Bankrupt them. That'll make their eyes water.

Anonymous said...

You would have thought those fighting for survival would have gone up against the Darth Scrotum.

They didn't. That should tell you all you need to know.

They deserve nothing but contempt.
They even went after those who only wanted to give the truth.

Not to mention mocking people.

Anyone with a brain does not need to wonder how Mark Chapman may have been turned into an unwitting assassin. He did after all approach the media before he killed Lennon.

Take the piss, did they?

Let us hope that travel ban to the US and vice versa is permanent.

Burlington Bertie from Bow said...

Does chronic and terminal bile count as an 'underlying health issue', Anonymous 13.13, 13.18 and passim passim passim ad infinitum?

Anonymous said...

No, BBfB - mental illnesses aren't a factor.