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Thread: Modern Journalism: A one sided view

  1. #1

    Default Modern Journalism: A one sided view

    I count myself fortunate to be of a nationality that has a national publicly funded treasure such as the BBC. It produces stunning documentaries that are probably some of the best, if not THE best, in the world. Its contribution to modern british comedy is also not to be understated – top gear for instance :P. With remarkable regularity, I’ve noticed a new and wonderfully satirical sketch show will break through roughly once a year. Also importantly, it has provided a home for one of my favourite TV Shows of all time: Doctor Who. And don’t forget the nostalgia of all the crappy-but-awesome retro shows its produced over the past 70 years or so. So, for the most part I feel I owe a great deal of loyalty, as well as my license fee, towards an institution that promotes my country’s cultural values in a positive and, frankly, nice way. So it is with a heavy heart that I commence a post criticising a particular section of it.

    As some of you will probably know already, the BBC is a publicly funded Media Broadcaster. It provides weather services, television, radio, news, as well as other bits and pieces. As such, historically when conducting journalism, the BBC will usually lean politically towards the ideals of the current or soon to be inbound government of each era. It makes sense, since the government controls whether the licensing fee increases, freezes or drops. It has always done this. Newspapers and other media organisations do this as well, so this in itself I don’t have a problem with. The world is after all driven by money. If you look hard enough, one can always find a producer of content that suits ones own tastes and opinions.

    The root of my frustration, as far as I can see, stems from two seeds. Firstly it’s the BBC’s (and to some extent media in general’s) contradiction with my own belief in how journalism should be created. People rely on news and media outlets to provide them with the ability to perceive events that they have no direct involvement in. One could argue that newspapers, blogs and twitter are a citizen’s eyes in a constantly connected and evolving world. To a certain extent, I believe news should carry at least some of the emotional context felt both by those in the area of the event and by the journalist. After all, to exclude this would be to deny a part of our humanity. However, the BBC is a prime example of where I think this has gone awry. A new style was adopted for its articles online two or three years ago. Often you will see a phrase in quotation marks, put in bold in the middle of an article. Take a look at this article for example: BBC News - Petrol pump sales decrease over five years, says AA.

    This is not an arbitrary statement made by the journalist and editors involved in the creation of article. It is not a quote. Nor is it a fact. I find, almost without fail, that these statements are designed to create an emotional response in the reader. It is surreptitious and intrusive. And yet, as I said previously, the BBC has its own political leanings that reflect how this particular style is used. I believe this is a double edged sword not to be wielded lightly, and yet it is used with remarkable regularity. A technique designed to ‘inflame’ the reader. This is perhaps a reflection on the modern political establishment’s tendency to use scare tactics with its citizens.

    The second problem I have with the BBC’s current methods of journalism originates from what on first appearance looks like political influence on news material. As stated previously, this is at least partly unavoidable. The majority of articles scream at me from a critical point of view subtle manipulation. But equally I lay the blame firmly at a lazy journalistic attitude. The article posted above is a prime example of this. Not only is it written from a one-sided political viewpoint – that of any oil company director who’s lost 20% of his 200 million bonus each year (oh no!), it also doesn’t even bother to create a full spectrum of opinion from different sources. All the sources used have a single agenda. It’s lazy but also subtley manipulative. I actually struggle to see why Americans often find the BBC preferable to Fox or CNN. At least both of these company’s agendas are in plain sight and open for all to see. What does it matter that they’re fascist, xenophobic and racist? Its so obvious after-all!

    Fundamentally what disturbs me most about all of this is that this style of journalism is thoroughly manipulative. Also, a lot of these people don’t even realise they are being manipulated. And, by a government run institution, that in so many other areas, and for so many years has been such a shining light.

    I’m really keen to hear what view point each of you hold on this. Do you mind being manipulated into thinking and acting a certain way towards political events? Do you critically analyse everything that you read? Do you find yourself depressed and angry when reading the news? And even more so now that new journalistic tactics are being implemented? What do you choose to read?

    I await discourse! (and plenty of it! :3)




    “Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”


    - George Orwell

  2. #2

    Default I believe this is related...



    Quote Originally Posted by Luca View Post
    ["..."]
    One thing that I've noticed over the last few years, that seems to correlate with this 'tipping', or 'leading' of the once more respected media...

    ...is at-least, the more apparent commercial drive/embedding for funding resources. I don't believe that's coincidence at all.

    Now I should point out, that my own observation has become much reduced since the USA's switch to digital-broadcasting for over-the-air transmissions; I catch bits and pieces while at friends or other (no TV at home).

    This may be to my advantage having extended periods of media abstinence, as the changes are less subtle, or slight. BBC/BBC-America, was one of my most trusted and valued resources too...from, seemingly brilliant documentaries, to seeing USA from across-the-'pond' perspective...I felt much less likely to be duped, or manipulated. This was especially important to me, as I had missed much education-wise in many aspects of world-history, anthropology, and so on.

    My analogy: Think if you are constantly around a child, there are many subtle things that one acclimates to in each passing day; things become shockingly apparent, when significant periods of time are realized between observations.

    I was shocked, and dismayed by seeing at-least the loss of transparency, in the formerly non-commercial, basically non-political (or perhaps a 'counter-political'), and non-religious media format. It was after-all "Public Broadcasting". And it would seem, that those days...are gone. It even seems, that there is little to no 'telethon'/fund-drives, to support the earlier cause.

    I hope that I haven't wandered-off too far from your inquiries and contentions.

  3. #3

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by Luca View Post
    However, the BBC is a prime example of where I think this has gone awry. A new style was adopted for its articles online two or three years ago. Often you will see a phrase in quotation marks, put in bold in the middle of an article. Take a look at this article for example: BBC News - Petrol pump sales decrease over five years, says AA.

    This is not an arbitrary statement made by the journalist and editors involved in the creation of article. It is not a quote. Nor is it a fact.
    I find, almost without fail, that these statements are designed to create an emotional response in the reader. It is surreptitious and intrusive. And yet, as I said previously, the BBC has its own political leanings that reflect how this particular style is used. I believe this is a double edged sword not to be wielded lightly, and yet it is used with remarkable regularity. A technique designed to ‘inflame’ the reader. This is perhaps a reflection on the modern political establishment’s tendency to use scare tactics with its citizens.
    Well if petrol sales have fallen from 22 billion litres in 2007 to 17 billion litres in 2012, that IS a fall of just over 20%, and the AA writes a press release about it... it IS a fact that Petrol pump sales decreased over five years, and the AA said something about it. So I'm not sure what your objection is in this particular case?



    The article posted above is a prime example of this. Not only is it written from a one-sided political viewpoint – that of any oil company director who’s lost 20% of his 200 million bonus each year (oh no!)
    Actually the big problem I see with this story is the use of the volume sales that the AA refers to, not a fall in value sales.
    In fact after a bit of searching around I found this graph which shows that in 2007 the UK average price of petrol per litre to the consumer was around 0.90, and no higher than 1 per litre. In 2012 the price is between 1.30 and 1.40 (a c.40% increase over 2007) so even allowing for the VAT increase from 17.5% to 20% and increases in fuel duty, I can't imagine the oil companies are doing too badly out of it. (I'm not a paid journalist, so I'm not going to check up on everything )
    It seems to me like consumers are trying to save money by using less petrol, but even though they're using less petrol they're not saving any money. Tough for them (us) but at least if less petrol (and diesel) is being burnt and people are using more efficient vehicles there's less pollution.

    I don't like to frame things that are wrong in the world as being "trends" or "new" or generally worse than they used to be, because when you look into the history of things which are wrong, you often find twas ever thus, or that it's a reaction to a previous Bad Thing that's now being over-compensated for. Having said that...

    1. There are less paid journalists in the UK today than there used to be, but they are producing more news content. At the same time there are more people employed writing press releases. Therefore you get items like this: re-written press releases, with a reaction quote from "someone affected by the story" in this case the Petrol Retailers Association chairman.

    2. I can't believe that having the top 10 most popular, and top 5 most shared BBC news items listed on every page is a Good Thing. This just creates a feed-back loop in which the most attention grabbing items become popular, and all items become more attention grabby. The easiest way to get our attention and get us to remember something is to provoke anger and/or fear. This has some merit, because things we obviously have an interest, and a more urgent interest, in knowing about things which may harm us, vs. things which are benign. The sad truth is that an accurate view of the world, in which there are some urgent problems, some things which could be better, a lot of stuff ticking along OK and a some things which are really pretty grate will never be the "most shared" or "most read."

  4. #4
    professorbock

    Default

    This is a great discussion! As a degreed Bachelor of Journalism, I must share a couple observations.

    News today has shifted on major networks to drive a pathos-based reaction in the broad audience. We call it "the emotional connection" and try to personalize events to attract more viewers.

    This is all fine and dandy for journalism itself, but honestly, the attention-grabbing tactics of news outlets such as Fox and CNN have become far more politically extreme in their presentations, such as in promoted newscasters like Bill "O'Reilly and Rachael Maddow. Why?

    Ad dollars. If you're broke, you can't make news to broadcast. So you end up always having to compromise and cater to the advertiser's and executives' political and religious desires.

    Another faucet of today's news evolution is the sheer volume of events shared. Back when I attended my journalism school, being a reporter was all about the one-man-band backpack work.

    Indeed, reporters do it all, from interviews, to camera work and editing for publishing. This, too can serve as another gateway level of truth skewing, just by its very physical nature.

    And of course, every part of every organization from businesses to publishers must look out not only for their bottom line, but public relations image as well.

    So, where do you think they're going to place their safest bets to future-proof their industries?

    After all, we're only human.

    Personally, I lost interest in chasing a career in journalism as a news writer because of how money hungry every part of the media industry became as a whole. Quite frankly, I was also turned off by the lack of livable wages, as described above. It's mostly about crazy adventure and showing off to the world an extreme sense of curiosity.

    I mean, think about it. I can work retail and make $10 an hour, or I can make $10 an hour at a local paper and have to run around the city trying to get people to talk, all while running on a 24-hour cycle. The opportunity cost and work demand is too much in my opinion.

    And, as the old saw goes, "If only I had more time, if only I had more time." Quantity over quality rules the newsroom and marketplace.

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