Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The public gets what the public wants / But I want nothing this society's got


Over at Burnt Symmetry there are some interesting parallels and observations re: Chavez & populism.

Some additional thoughts.
Mugabe also began going popular in about 1992 (1992-1980= 12 years).
2006 - 1994 = 12 years (what happened in 1994 again?). But I digress.

The blame here is partly placed on shoddy journalism (absence of objective reporting). I’m not sure that this is the case though. More & more I see people clustering around the type of news that they like to read. Stories and opinions that resonate with their world view. So the papers write what most people like. I visit liberal blogs but pass only a cursory glance over the single thesis blogs like crimeexpo.

I don't think that this concept of opinion-loaded reporting is a recent phenomonen though. See here.

As The Jam so profoundly thundered in the 70's: (OK they hit number one with this in March 1980, but it is so 70's..)
What you see is what you get
Youve made your bed, you better lie in it
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
Youll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns

The public gets what the public wants
But I want nothing this society's got

I would go further to say that frankly I think it's always been the case that journalists write for their audience. Since the dawn of time.

For instance when my great-great-grandfather was jailed for two weeks by Paul Kruger when he was the editor of the Pilgrim's Rest based "Gold Fields Mercury" in the 1870's it was for writing for his audience (the miners) and criticising the actions of the government of the day. While his news may have had its roots in fact it was driven by his opinion. Such was his following though that the miners stormed the jail and released him. This was considered a revolt and a detachment of soldiers - 25 men and a cannon - was sent from Lydenburg, but good sense prevailed and it all came to naught.

The very fact that one can usually, and always have been able to, classify newspapers as left-leaning, right-leaning, conservative or liberal indicates that there is a bias inherent in the content.

The problem arises when we forget this. We just need to be aware that everything we read is clouded by opinion and most of the time we like it that way. Yes, sometimes this opinion masquerades as fact - and we do need to be awake to that. Engaging and blindly accepting the word of the media is a bit like entering a dark alley and not expecting to be mugged. Vigilance helps in this environment. In fact your very survival depends on it.

But all is not lost. If something is reported that is of consequence and is overly-crowded with bias then there is bound to be someone who challenges this. And the forum to challenge does exist. It exists in the shift that is coming for the “The people formerly known as the audience”. (That’s you & me, ladies and gentlemen).

9 comments:

Dave said...

The Jam easily one of my favourite ever bands.

Third World Ant said...

There's another bias I was exposed to during my short stint as a journalist, something that is particularly bad in SA: the media panders to the whims of big business, because that's where their main income comes from: advertising. It's less of a problem in more developed nations with far bigger industries and more companies to approach for advertising if you piss one of them off by writing (true) derogatory comments.

ATW said...

Opinion is OK as long as it is honest. In fact it's good. That is why we find TV like TopGear so much more than that cr*p that masquerades for motor journalism in this country precisely because it is packed with opinion for opinions sake. Not trying to gaurantee next week's buck.

Third World Ant said...

Amen! Opinion columns / shows are always far more interesting and insightful than news that claims a lack of bias. Long live free (and honest) speech!

And you've just reminded me to go check out on Richard Hammond's progress...

Kate said...

I'm sure that it is a relief that someone out there is bound to complain, but I think we should all try to be that person. Even though I'm not working as a journalist at the moment, my training means that I watch the news/read the paper in a very critical way, and am often pissed off by blatant bias in the media - but only get off my ass long enough to complain about 20% of the time. I could do better. We all should.

Kate said...

This in particular pissed me off last night. A murder in Kenya was being reported on the UK's channel Four news, and much effort was made to link the murder to race, even while stating that it was motivated by poaching and trespassing concerns. I'm not defending the alleged shooter, that's for his lawyers to do, but I dont see why this is a race issue. And the use of old movie footage of colonists is emotive, if not manipulative. There's a link to the report as we saw it, from the page. Check it out.

Kate said...

This in particular pissed me off last night. A murder in Kenya was being reported on the UK's channel Four news, and much effort was made to link the murder to race, even while stating that it was motivated by poaching and trespassing concerns.

I'm not defending the alleged shooter, that's for his lawyers to do, but I dont see why this is a race issue. And the use of old movie footage of colonists is emotive, if not manipulative.

I understand why they say its "stirred up racial tensions", but the footage in combination with the words implies racial motivation.

There's a link to the report as we saw it, from the page. Check it out.

Triggermap said...

Hey there. Thanks for reading my blog - yours is very cool, some very insightful points :) I must say about my posts though, is that they are more rants than well structured, clearly thought through arguments. They reflect how I am feeling at that point, which may not be coherent sometimes:P They are starting points which needs to be refined, as your post has done for me. Expect to find many more loopholes and flaws in posts to come:P

I need to make time to read your blog archives, because unlike mine, yours are carefully planned.

ATW said...

Trigger.. never apologise about a rant. That's what blogs are mostly for.