No News is Good News.

I will not count my chickens. I will not count my chickens. I will not count my chickens. I will not count my chickens. I will not count my chickens.

Oh, sorry. You caught me trying not to get too excited.  The current events relating to News of the World and News International as a whole – escalating and expanding, like a computer virus spreading exponentially from link to link, speeding up as it goes, reaching the point of no return…  Sorry, there I go again.  I will not count my chickens.  I will not expect that this will bring the whole stinking monolith tumbling down. I will however keep my fingers crossed. And any progress is better than none.

I am sorry that the staff of the News of the World were scapegoated. They probably had little, if anything, to do with that particular part of the scandal. They were treated shoddily, but if they were surprised, then I think their opinion of their erstwhile employer a little naive. Of course at least now they can claim some kind of martyrdom – whereas had the crisis not broken they would probably just have been made redundant, or shunted to the Sunday Sun in the next couple of months anyway.  Moving forward the restructuring has allowed the redhead to dodge a bullet, News International to make a big gesture, and probably saved them a bunch of money in the proper administration of the redistribution of resources. Not to mention that pesky rumour that by closing the paper they are allowed to get rid of its assets – with all that troublesome evidence on them.

But guess what Rupe? The gullible masses aren’t having it.  They know that the easiest thing you could have done was offer up Rebekah Brooks, tied her to the stake, and offered to light the fire beneath. But instead, you gave too much, and yet not enough. It made people think, if this is damage limitation, what might the damage you’re worried about be?  Plus – those people you’re dumping on the dole, even if some of them are journalists – aren’t living in luxury lined ivory towers. They have lives, families, bills to pay. Like your readers. You’ve just said that their needs are nothing beside Brooks’ need to keep her job despite having been at the helm of the paper at the time these particular practices were rife.  So the clamouring for blood goes on.

The hacking scandal is disgusting. Don’t get me wrong, I am as outraged as the next outraged person. But it is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  I have long had a problem with News International, the spindly fingers in every pie. But not just  them. All elements of the media are poisonous to different extents. Some are potentially life threatening, some just turn your stomach.  I look at Fox News in the US and despair.

A few questions arise here. What is news? What should be in Newspapers?  Secondly, what means are acceptable to use to obtain that news? And once obtained, how should that news be delivered.

David Beckam’s sex life is not news.  The bizarre names of his children is not news.  Not to say that these things might not be of interest to someone other than his wife, but it’s not newsworthy stuff.  It’s gossip. There are plenty of outlets for gossip these days. I’m not interested in gossip – but if people are, let them go read it on the internet, or in the plethora of magazines full of brightly coloured crap, skinny women, and contradictory stories on anorexia and cellulite.  The gossip is a smokescreen, taking up space that should be used to discuss real news.

Not to say that sex lives can never be news. Obviously there are cases where they might be.  If stories emerge which are significant – I don’t know, maybe a minister has an affair with the owner of a company to whom they subsequently grant a big fat contract. Then the details of the affair are not the issue, the corruption is.  Whether there have been shenanigans in the House of Commons, really isn’t the point.  This talks to the “how” of news.  The “how” of news is really what I have a problem with. Why I have been against News International titles, and Associated Press etc since I was old enough to read. Also why I’m not that keen on the Morning Star or Socialist Worker for that matter, though I may be more prone to agree with their general jist.

Every story has a number of angles. Every story has an origin, evidence, or lack thereof to back it up.  If a paper gives more emphasis to one angle than another, or fails to report evidence that inconveniently doesn’t support their agenda, or beef up or misrepresent issues – then the only real reason behind this is that it is trying to persuade you to agree with it.  In fact, it will probably couch the persuasion in such terms that what they write is blatantly true, and you’d be an idiot to think there was anything more to it than that.  Educating the masses was a dangerous move. It gave people power to learn about the world and how it works, to change their circumstances, to challenge the status quo.  It was a clever sod who decided to subvert that power by taking the media, the main place those people would go to learn, and using it to shape their opinions into a nice, obedient mass.  Tell them what they should care about, and tell them what they should think about it.  If people want to know why there is such a furore from some about threats to libraries, it’s because they are the other vanguard of that access to knowledge and education that liberated the working classes.  Convincing people they don’t want to learn, to read, don’t need access to information – is another way of making sure that we don’t make trouble.

How do you think policy is made? How do you want it do be made?  Do you want MPs to a) do whatever they feel like doing, b) do whatever they think will get them good headlines, or c) do what is right and best for the country, based on the best available evidence?  When the press hold such sway over public opinon, the danger of B occuring is ubiquitous.  So all a multi-billionaire news empire owner needs to do to get his way, is get his outlets to report stories in such a way to support his aims, wait for the public to react, and then point the loaded weapon at the political machinery in the country of their choice.

What is crucial about all this is that politicians haven’t had much choice in the matter for a long time. In a two headed system – you couldn’t stand up to the monster alone, because it would just go and support  the other side, and keep its influence.  It has taken something to show up the vile underbelly to the consumer – to the readers, to turn public opinion against him. It only takes a moment.  And it took the politicians a while to realise that moment was here – and to realise that there was a chance to stand together against it.

I don’t dare to hope it will crumble entirely. That suddenly the Daily Mail will start reporting with compassion, or the Star put some nice cardigans on those poor chilly girls.  But I will let myself hope that people will think a bit more about the paper they pick up – and why the people behind it are so keen that you buy their paper over everyone elses. It’s not just the money. They’ve got more of that than they could ever feasibly spend.

I could go on and on, and I have. But really, fingers crossed everyone. Fingers crossed.

Oh, and I recommend this if you’re interested : http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Media-are-Doing-Politics/dp/1841199001

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