Monday, January 29, 2007

Three signposts elsewhere

Once again, too busy to do anything substantial here. So a few signposts off instead,

Firstly, I saw this in my copy of Chartist – Jean Seaton asking "Whatever happened to investigative reporting?"
“…the emergence of opinion over reporting. But it is opinion that is devoid of political ideology. This twenty year old print media trend has been followed by television news, that has become more opinionated in a narrow sense too – now celebrity reporters ventriloquise politicians. Secondly, there has been the development of 24-hour news - a sadly repetitive and empty, format. Thirdly, has been the pursuit of detail without context as a substitute for ‘investigative’ journalism. So, we have become accustomed to getting our news on the cheap, which serves the purposes of elitist politicians well.”

“There is a stealthy, swift, revolution taking place in the media, in politics and in the public: we must all self-consciously begin to ask what we can do to sustain our capacity to discuss together, in public, in a rational way, things that matter. Good reporting – however it develops in a brilliant moment of technological innovation – will keep the public whether local or international alert. It will hold governments, businesses and international agencies to account.

It will also nurture intelligence. We have to get the right policies in place for ourselves and for the world. And our lucky, comfortable children will need every source of intelligence and reflection, and every skill to assess what is happening if they are going to tackle the future problems we leave them with – and all of the ones we have not yet imagined. Getting the media right is not a luxury. It is a necessity of everything else we have to do. The world is too dangerous a place – and the opportunities too exciting – for us to continue to censor thoughtfulness. But are we willing to pay the price?”

Also, a prejudice alert:

I’ve only seen brief reviews of this book on why homework for kids is a bad thing. I’ve not read it yet, but I’m already fairly sure that I agree with it. I found homework soul-destroying and demotivating, and I’m determined to help my children avoid it if I can.

And finally, I just enjoyed this article by Sean O’Hagen. Mix tape nostalgia is an old chestnut here.


Daniel said...

Paulie, this is once more an example of someone stating that there's a huge problem but not supplying any examples. Investigative journalism looks to be in about the same shape it's always been in. And in any case, what's the difference between "detail without context", which is apparently a good thing and "factual reporting without editorialising", which you're always claiming to be in favour of. Is this an irregular verb:

I report the facts and let the people make up their own mind
You provide detail without context
He has given up on serious journalism.

Paulie said...

When Jean Seaton talks about 'detail without context' she means the way that reporting subsumes the need to tell the whole story (boring) to the need to pick a bit of detail out, isolate it, and thereby get a sensational headline.

This is very different from 'factual reporting without editorialising'. Reporting should always aim to include enough information about the totality of a situation that has produced the thing that is being reported.

For evidence of this, look at the campaigning reporting on the front page of most editions of The Daily Express / Mail / Independent / Telegraph. The Telegraph was particularly guilty of this when it was in it's headlong obsession with the EU.

I doubt if most journalists would agree with you that investigative reporting isn't in decline. Whether it's handwringing about Panorama or the 'golden age' of the Sunday Times insight team.

I'm surprised to be even asked for more evidence on the decline of investigative journalism. It's such a common meme that a quick Google here throws up plenty of examples:

For what it's worth, I think it's a two-way street. On the one hand, the investment in investigative reporting has been slashed, so decent reporters are as rare as rocking-horse shit. On the other hand, those that are still working have editors that are less deferential - you don't need to explain to an editor why a big-shot needs taking down a peg or two any more.

Cian said...

Homework is bad for pre-teens, as is sending them to school at 5, as is constantly testing them, as are most of the country's education policies of the last 25 years. And don't get me started on computers in the classroom... Still it could be worse, we could have the US system (which mystifyingly some politicians here look to for answers. How stupid does that make them?).

I'm sure Jean Seaton has many wonderful qualities but serious analysis is not one of them. That article was a mixture of cliche and received opinion, with no examples or facts to back up any of his/her arguments. As such it would fit in well with the other mediocre products of our commentariat in most newspapers. And I'd think that even if I agreed with everyone of its conclusions. I largely agree with your thesis that our commentators are mostly mediocre, which is why I find it mystifying that you praise equally mediocre commentators who agree with you (John Lloyd, Martin Kettle and Jean here).

"I doubt if most journalists would agree with you that investigative reporting isn't in decline. Whether it's handwringing about Panorama or the 'golden age' of the Sunday Times insight team."

That doesn't make it anymore true. Journalists are as prone to nostalgia for mythical golden ages as anyone else. And just because a lot of people believe something, doesn't make it any more true.