The Grandiosity Of Modern Journalism

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From Vice we get a statement that really does misunderstand what this journalism, media, thing is all about:

Journalism is not supposed to be a fluffy PR machine for the government (unless you’re working in North Korea, or, I don’t know, the Sunday Telegraph news desk), ready to boost your mood on a less than jolly day with an uplifting story of a dog who saved a duck from traffic, or a picture of a waving seal. It is a tool to interrogate power structures and inequality, serve the public interest and, occasionally, provide readers with something funny to read.

No Love, sorry, entirely wrong. Journalism is the craft of filling in the white bits between the advertisements.

It’s not a profession, it’s not a calling and it has no public purpose. Trial and error has shown that peeps out there just won’t go out and buy booklets of adverts. They won’t even pay all that much attention to free books of them stuffed through their letterboxes as local freesheets show.

In order to get people to see the piccies of fine cavalry twill trousers (an ad that has been running beside the Telegraph crossword for at least four decades), or to drool over offers of lushly organic bath salts, experience has indicated that someone needs to be employed to write about the footie – see that parrot bein’ sick? – or the weather – cloudy with a chance of meatballs – or the thespian who should only have been stepped out with – Meghan Steals Our Prince! – or you know what they’re doing with your money – Tax Rise Shocker! – to fill in the blanks between the commercial offers.

And that’s it. That’s what we do.

We can even prove this. The editorial line of absolutely every publication is one that follows the prejudices of its readers. When setting up a new one the big question is, well, who are we going to appeal to? Not what truths are we going to tell but who will look at the ads based upon the truths we decide to tell.

All that speaking truth to power, interrogation of structures and inequalities, that’s for the awards season. It has as much to do with reality as calling politicians statesmen – entirely irrelevant to the working day and something more suited to those dead.

Entirely true that journalism comes in flavours, even layers, styles and stratified along socioeconomic lines. But then so do restaurants come in manners that appeal to different audiences despite their output all ending up in the same place – the U-bend – some limited number of hours after consumption.

Journalism is simply entertainment that is, journalists just those who do so with words. There is a market for that truth-telling to power stuff, just as there is one for vegan meals. But they’re both limited to those who are entertained by such which is why Maccy D’s bestrides the world and the Mail and The Sun outsell Tribune, Counterpunch and Salon.

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djc
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djc

Trial and error has shown that peeps out there just won’t go out and buy booklets of adverts

I don’t know, Exchange & Mart did pretty well in its day. And all those What Car/PC/Phone things are really just ads even if some of it is disguised as ‘reviews’. And the what to buy features in glossies etc.

Spike
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Spike

Quite true; like a successful restaurant, a successful medium feeds its audience what they want to eat. So we ought not whinge about the dangerously left-wing “fake-news” mainstream “legacy” media, or the dangerously right-wing talk radio. (Or, nearby, Facebook.)

And, even in the US, where every prospective new widget-maker had better read the rulebook of the Federal Widget Administration, you can easily start your own! (Only, who will read it?)

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

The problem is that in many countries it is a criminal offence not to purchase the dominant left wing media (in the UK that’s the BBC and in Germany the ARD), that is not the case for right wing media and therein lies a dangerous disparity.

jgh
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jgh

Has anybody tried the other direction, seeing if people are prepared to buy booklets filled with no adverts at all? The only thing I can think of is things like club newsletters.

bloke in spain
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bloke in spain

Worth pointing out that we used to have the Pink’un. Which wasn’t read for entertainment & didn’t cater to its purchaser’s prejudices. Unfortunately the Financial Times, also printed in a rosy hue, is not that publication.