RIP Old Media

No one in their right mind would pay for the vast majority of newspaper content. Your choice has been reduced to:

  • Tits (n: mammary glands) and press releases
  • Tits (n: shrill newspaper columnists) and press releases

While each are entertaining in their own ways the world is hardly short of tits and opinion. And as these things are largely interchangeable they are effectively free and selling them is therefore almost impossible. Murdoch’s foolhardy attempt to put his content behind a paywall is half laudable, half mad.

But the flipside of the competition for your interest is a precipitous decline in serious reporting in the mainstream media.

Listening to Radio 4 while driving home recently, there was a report on progress at Fukushima. Having hauled in an expert from the IEAE the interviewer quickly got down to the most pressing issue: the “mood of the workers” knowing that the “whole world is willing them on”.

While I’m sure that makes for a moderately distracting human interest story, this is one of the flagship current affairs programs on the what is generally regarded as a beacon of journalistic quality. Fukushima has many dimensions to it that will strongly affect the future not just of the workers at the plant, but possibly of the world: European countries are pulling back from nuclear power in the wake of the event – including Germany – the industrial powerhouse of the entire European economy.

That’s a huge deal, and there is a very interesting story to explore there. Why a ‘disaster’ that has so far led to no directly attributable deaths can cause a kneejerk abandonment of a critical piece of energy infrastructure in a major economy, while almost simultaneously a localised health drama that has killed 35 people has been relegated to the “oh – is that still happening?” pile.

And of course almost all of the media also fell for a beautifulpeople.com press release/linkbait.

Dear media: get real.

Whilst people on Twitter were calling on the scam almost immediately, the damage to media credibility was already done. The BBC might have surreptitiously gone back and re-edited the story to look at the PR angle, but they still link to the site. And on other sites as mighty as The Telegraph and The Guardian, the story still sits there, generated a higher profile for the company and passing valuable link equity.

And these are the sites which, in themselves, Google is happy to call ‘authoritative’.

The claims made for journalism – that it is fair, researched, driven by truth and independent of distortion by power and money are yet again show to be hollow. News coverage is now a commodity: name  the price you put on that coverage, and it’s yours for the taking.

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