Monday, 25 April 2011

Journalism and other infantile disorders

Michael Howard appeared on the "Today" programme this morning.  Unusually, he was not seeking to privatise the blood-banks, or campaign for reduced street-lighting around graveyards.  Instead, he was in a two-way interview with Menzies Campbell.  The interviewer was desperately attempting to create a spat between the politicians as they were analysing the cracks emerging over the AV referendum and the apparent discovery of testosterone by a few Liberals over the weekend.

Three days ago I posted on the Westminster parish-pump approach to political journalism.  This may have been generous.  The current crop appears to be primed principally to seek playground psychosis rather than giving anybody the benefit of an opportunity to speak or articulate ideas that are sufficiently complex as to require a subordinate clause.  Teenage scribblers would be ashamed at the intellectual level of the news coverage that emerges - it is absolutely ridiculous that it is more important to set up a row than it is to explore the deeper motivations of politicians.

This may well be a consequence of the way in which the media considers itself to be at the centre of the "story".  An interview on "Today" becomes the news lead for the BBC for much of the rest of the day - nicely sloppy and it saves money on actually investigating the world and its complexities.  It's cross-promotion at its crassest, and undermines the BBC's credentials as an independent organisation.  C.P. Scott's over-used aphorism on the nature of facts remains pertinent, as the BBC continues to behave as though it is only ever bidden to explain "the whole issue" for the hard-of-thinking, rather than challenging enough to make people go away and consider their own position on key issues.

The journalist shouldn't necessarily aspire to be the story.  Nor should the medium become the message to the extent that it has done. 

The BBC, Evan Davies in particular, has achieved something that I never believed possible: I felt sorry for Michael Howard.  And he's hardly the people's choice.

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