Sunday, 4 March 2018

Good night and good morrow

Having run out of time tonight (before yet another long week at work), here's a link to give you food for thought over the coming days...

It takes you to a long lecture from shy and retiring BBC media editor Amol Rajan called The Tortoise and the Share that will take you at least an hour to read (if you're determined to try). 

It's packed with interesting thoughts and probably needs a considered overview from us, but - having no time left tonight - I'll just copy and paste a few paragraphs to infuriate your fancy instead:

The demands of rapacious social media, combined with the groupthink inherent in all pack journalism, makes covering politics highly prone to what, in my view, are errors of judgement. Let me re-iterate that I'm not talking about specific individuals here, but give you a couple of examples. 
First, Moggmentum. I'm sure you all know who Jacob Rees-Mogg is. Last year, especially through what has become known as silly season, there was a burgeoning industry in speculation over whether this idiosyncratic and intelligent backbencher was a future leadership contender for the Tories. I read article after article after article about how he was the grassroots' favourite, and various Tories were coming together to plot his takeover, lest Theresa May fall. 
But who does such speculation benefit, other than Jacob Rees-Mogg? And is there actually any substance to the story? It is of course one of those self-perpetuating things. Once the story starts to gather, if you excuse the pun, momentum, it does have the effect of inflating Rees-Mogg's reputation, and making him seem more plausible. But do ordinary members of the public really care about personalities in politics as much as journalists do? Runners and riders stories always seem to reflect the interest of hacks and pundits rather than audiences at home. 
Or take an example from America. The mad boosterism around Oprah Winfrey is their version of the same thing. After her speech at the Golden Globes there was an explosion of chat online about whether she might run for President. Does that mean it should be covered as news? Hell no! But did CNN cover it as news? Hell yes! One of their reports carried the headline: "Sources: Oprah Winfrey 'actively thinking' about running for president". 
Where to begin with this? I spend weekday evenings 'actively thinking' about becoming a reggae producer, or eating Nutella straight from the jar. That doesn't mean it's going to happen. The fact that this speculation was coming nearly a year before the mid-terms of Trump's first term was no barrier to the idle speculation. And if you actually read the story, it contained sentences such as: "One source emphasised that Winfrey has not made up her mind about running"... and "For now, it's all just talk". Er, you don't say.

Where to begin with that? Well, I'll probably leave that to you.

In lieu of that, I'll just point out that Amol's four "positive" recommendations for improving UK journalism (including BBC journalism) are very 'BBC' recommendations: (1) provide 'context' (BBC-style), (2) "fight for truth" by promoting things like the BBC's Reality Check, (3) have expert statistical fact-checkers on hand to immediately debunk those things you (the BBC) think need debunking, and (4) "speak for and with the poor, rather than to or at them".

And where to begin with that?

Well, not where BBC Amol begins for starters! I'm fed up with BBC reporters and their biased 'context', alarmed at their adjudicating 'reality checks', and concerned about their debunking intentions (and the direction they are likely to heavily tend towards thanks to the BBC's biases).

And as for "speaking for and with the poor", well, that needs a lot of 'unpacking'. Can such privileged BBC people really speak for the poor without projecting their own earnest fantasies onto them?

Please have a read for yourselves (if you have time). What do you think of the BBC media editor's take on mainstream media reporting?

Isn't this is a new BBC high-up basically singing like a blithe-spirited lark from his new BBC bosses' hymn sheet?


  1. 1. The BBC rarely likes to provide context for stories concerning such matters as the grooming gangs, Islamic terrorism or knife crime in the capital.

    2. The BBC doesn't "fight for truth" when it comes to such matters as the Clinton Foundation's corrupt practices, Bill Clinton's assaults on women, Max Mosley's fascist past, what really happened on that Cologne New Year's Eve party.

    3. The BBC did nothing to debunk the patently false predictions put out by the Treasury and Bank of England about what would happen to the UK immediately after a pro-Brexit vote. The BBC misinforms the public about statistics on immigration, resident UK population, population growth, and the effects of migration driven population growth on housing demand.

    4. The BBC are not interested in the views of the poor unless they belong to a registered "approved minority" who have in their eyes a legitimate grievance. They are definitely not interested in the main causes of poverty (single parent families, absent fathers, criminality, mass immigration, failure to speak standard English, welfare dependency, poor education, drug dependency, and class enmity).

    Since we are all in a reflective mood let me add this thought or pensee as the French say to Amol's:

    I realised today that whereas a few years ago I used to turn on BBC Radio at 1pm and think "I wonder what's in the news today", I now think "I wonder what they are up to today". Sad that I and I am sure many millions in this country have come to so distrust the public service broadcaster they are legally obliged to pay for.

    1. Given the likes of the NYT have grudgingly conceded things in Sweden might not be as rosy as to now claimed (Don will appreciate that one), one may wonder if, eventually, having trashed the reputations and careers of those brave enough to actually report rather than ‘interpret events’ and ‘enhance narratives’, the massed ranks of the bbc journalistic pool may eventually notice actual news of note?

  2. Yes, he has a point. The BBC, and much of the rest, did the same mad hyping of Tony Blair (to make him Labour leader), Barack Obama and others as he is now complaining about with Oprah Winfrey and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Is he only now noticing the nature of the media?

    Meanwhile, I've just spotted this comment from Peter Hitchens:

    "I asked the BBC how they could justify using propaganda footage, allegedly from the Syrian town of Ghouta, on a major news bulletin without any indication that it came from a partial source. They admitted they had done this. They admitted that it was against their rules. But I did not get the impression they were all that bothered, and I would not be surprised to see such stuff again. The BBC ‘reports’ an awful lot of things from Syria which it has no way of checking, from supposed gas attacks by the Assad state to death tolls and films (generally of wounded children being rushed about the place by unarmed young men). It has completely abandoned any semblance of independence or impartiality. How then can it justify its licence fee, collected on these conditions? ..."

    1. A rather significant problem with holding a power like the bbc to account is that they, almost uniquely, are exempted from being held.

  3. Whilst I am not a Putin apologist and fully accept that the Russian bear has a nasty set of claws, it is nevertheless amusing to hear a Buzzfeed "special reporter" telling us via Radio 4's Today that Russia is linked to 14 suspicious deaths in the UK, without being accused by the presenter of spreading conspiracist theories (even though in 13 cases the Buzzfeeder was going against the official verdict). It would be interesting if the Today programme took a similarly open line when it comes to suspicious deaths in the USA, e.g. the death of Seth Rich.

    1. On twitter this morning, a few actual media professionals was lamenting the bbc habit of using conveniently useful implausibly deniable other sources like Buzzfeed to push bbc ‘news’.

      Then of course one might hark back to the BIJ and Newsnight.

      Or Nick Clegg as roving reporter on Brexit.