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  • Sleepwalking to a dumbed-down world


    by El Cid
    25th January, 2009 at 12:16 pm    

    This is a guest post

    Is the world sleepwalking to a dumbed-down world where narrow, fanatical political agendas can flourish as the ability to engage with broader opinion is lost? Maybe the French President was on to something this week when he offered state support to the traditional press, the so-called - or should that be erstwhile - Fourth Estate:

    “President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a rescue plan Friday for France’s ailing print media including measures to save on printing and distribution costs as well as a more creative idea: a free newspaper subscription for every French person when they turn 18.”

    Do reliable traditional news sources still have a social value? Are they worth fighting for? Can bloggers really fill the gap? Where are we heading? What does it mean for our democracy?

    I was prompted to ask these questions after watching a short online movie made by Robin Sloan for the American Museum of Media History.


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    Filed in: Media






    24 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs


    1. Bert Rustle — on 25th January, 2009 at 12:32 pm  

      El C id wrote … reliable traditional news sources …

      Name one, which has not lied by omission on multiple occasions.

      In my opinion, news sources previously appeared reliable as alternative presentations were largely unavailable, not because they actually were reliable.

    2. El Cid — on 25th January, 2009 at 1:27 pm  

      Before I engage with you Bert or anyone else, I would like to add something to the post. Is anyone from editorial around?

    3. Rumbold — on 25th January, 2009 at 1:32 pm  

      Yup.

    4. El Cid — on 25th January, 2009 at 1:38 pm  

      I’ve emailed you

    5. Rumbold — on 25th January, 2009 at 1:43 pm  

      Thanks- post now updated.

    6. El Cid — on 25th January, 2009 at 2:06 pm  

      I’ve emailed you again Rumbers (sorry)

    7. Zak — on 25th January, 2009 at 3:00 pm  

      in all likelihood the recession will kill a lot pf papers.

    8. Boyo — on 25th January, 2009 at 3:07 pm  

      “Is the world sleepwalking to a dumbed-down world where narrow, fanatical political agendas can flourish as the ability to engage with broader opinion is lost? Can bloggers fill the gap?”

      Not judging by the polarisation on this site - try to consider the Gaza conflict in a balanced way and you’re a “defender of Israel” (or worse).

      Meanwhile, over at HP we have them “making the case for the defence” re the BBC and DEC. FFS!

      So… no.

    9. blah — on 25th January, 2009 at 3:28 pm  

      newspapers are and have always been vehicles for the ideaology and prejudices of their millionaire publishers

    10. blah — on 25th January, 2009 at 3:51 pm  

      boyo

      “Not judging by the polarisation on this site - try to consider the Gaza conflict in a balanced way and you’re a “defender of Israel” (or worse).”

      Its funny that defenders of Israels massacre criticisise those who call Israelis murderous rampgae “disproportianate” explaining how it isnt necessary for Israel to be proportionate

      Yet demand the media coverage be balanced!

    11. sonia — on 25th January, 2009 at 4:18 pm  

      Heh. as bert rustle said.

      “in all likelihood the recession will kill a lot of papers.”

      really? why? do you think they’re struggling?

      there is a lot of naivete around.

    12. douglas clark — on 25th January, 2009 at 4:20 pm  

      Boyo @ 8,

      It has seemed to me for yonks that the only issue that truly polarises people on here is the Israeli / Palestinian dispute. Sure, there are other issues where people get upset - me included - but there are rarely the near flame wars that arise over that issue.

      Agree with you about the HP thread right enough.

    13. SE — on 25th January, 2009 at 4:24 pm  

      Its funny that defenders of Israels massacre criticisise those who call Israelis murderous rampgae “disproportianate” explaining how it isnt necessary for Israel to be proportionate

      Yet demand the media coverage be balanced!”"

      Not to mention that the media is pretty much pro-Israel and the US/UK pretty much back their bloodthirsty murder, not to mention the white majority pretty much do too..and don’t get me started on the filth that are living in Israel and the IDF.

    14. sonia — on 25th January, 2009 at 4:31 pm  

      there is a big difference between media here and the US, SE, you colour blind person. “white majority” - what the hell is that?

      really, this country is so god-damn race conscious, thank god i never grew up here. it must have been f***ed.

    15. billericaydicky — on 25th January, 2009 at 5:15 pm  

      I’ve never seen a subject here go off topic so quickly. Yes all the printed media world wide is in trouble from various sources and not just the net. I read the best Spanish daily El Pais every day and was told by a Spanish journalist yesterday that it is inmajor financial trouble and looking for a buyer.

      Local papers in this country are in trouble as well and there will be major closures in the next couple of years so journalists tell me.

      What should not be an issue is whether or not the media tells lies or distorts the truth. One of the most interesting things abou the Guardian’s comment is free is how the papers readership will very often slate an article as well as how postings are censored.

      All papers have a bias of some kind or another but to compare them in this country to what happened in the former Soviet Union and in other dictatorships is ridiculous.

      One of the things which is thrown around on left wing blogs is that an opinion could have come out of the Daily Mail which means that it isn’t true. That need not be the case each issue has to be looked at on its merits.

      What France is proposing is to subsidise the newspaper industry rather in the way that the Guardian is doing here. We have just had an offer that if we agree to take the paper for three months we get vouchers to give our news agent which will save us money.

      There is something of a myth that the net has opened up a whole new censorship free way of communicating. It is the left sites which are the quickest to delete opinions they don’t like. The net has also generated a mass of conspiracy theories that are rapidly taken to be the truth depending on a persons particular point of view.

      There is something satisfying about reading a book or a newspaper that just doesn’t come from a screen but that’s just a personal view.

    16. douglas clark — on 25th January, 2009 at 5:21 pm  

      SE,

      I really do think you are amongst the most partizan commentators on here. I am white, funnily enough I know quite a few white people and whilst they are no way near as worked up about this issue as the participants, it would be fair to say that the vast majority seem to see it as a humanitarian disaster.

      Brown, whom I’ve pointed out before I am not a fan of, said on the second day of the intervention in Gaza, this:

      http://www.javno.com/en/world/clanak.php?id=220617

      That is a pretty categorical call for a cease-fire.

      I asked before what UK supporters of citizens in Gaza actually expect the UK to do, beyond that. Frankly I was unimpressed with the replies.

      The most the UK can realistically do is on the diplomatic and humanitarian fronts. It is certainly overstretched to do anything on the military front, and neither should it.

      Describing people as filth is rarely a useful debating tool.

      Is that clear?

    17. douglas clark — on 25th January, 2009 at 5:56 pm  

      El Cid,

      Sorry for going off topic.

      I fear that the battle for quality journalism, at least in the print media, is already lost. There are apparently four times as many folk employed in PR than there is in journalism. When I buy normal quality newspapers these days, they seem to contain no analysis whatsoever of the content that they are being presented with. The articles are either mash ups of government news releases or company PR. My understanding is that they arein a downward spiral where quality analysis or independent reporting is seen as too expensive and newsteams are being downsized.

      To some extent this is probably the fault, not of the internet, but of the 24 Hour News Channels, who do still have the resources to do reasonable journalism. Though mainly they do not - Fox News being a particularily egregious example.

      Seperately, I think what has happened, in the user / reader interface for print journalism is a wake up call for the exceptionally lazy writers of ‘opinion pieces’ and I would disagree with Billericaydicky about the impact that the likes of 5cc and Bensix can make.

      Bloggerheads unattributed pick up by Private Eye over a clear case of incitement is a good example.

      http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2009/01/glen_jenvey_has.asp

    18. Cabalamat — on 25th January, 2009 at 7:21 pm  

      News sources have social value. Printing them on dead trees does not, and will die out.

    19. Golam Murtaza — on 25th January, 2009 at 8:23 pm  

      Local newspapers in the UK are totally screwed at the moment (I work for one). However, it is worth pointing out that they were in serious trouble well BEFORE the economic slump. Currently, the managers’ only response to this crisis is to continually cut editorial staff. And to force the poorly paid remaining reporters to do more work for nothing extra. Then they wonder why the quality of the product declines, fewer people buy the papers, revenues slump further, making them sack more reporters e.t.c.

      Incidentally, for a good summary of how ballsed up the media is in general, check out the book Flat Earth News, by Nick Davies (or Davis?)

    20. Bert Rustle — on 25th January, 2009 at 8:40 pm  

      Billericaydicky 15 wrote … All papers have a bias of some kind or another but to compare them in this country to what happened in the former Soviet Union and in other dictatorships is ridiculous. …

      I disagree.

      Compare reports of record grain harvests whilst queuing for hours for bread with celebrating Diversity yet ignoring the realities of multi-ethnic and multi-racial nations such as Kenya or Yugoslavia.

      Compare reports of the lack of women in top jobs being due to sexism without mention of the fact males have a much wider range of IQ than females and that the bulk of really clever people are male. However alluding to the fact that the bulk of really stupid people are male is OK.

      Compare reports of the lack of women in top jobs being due to sexism with the absence of a similar argument that the male/female incarceration rate is due to sexism.

    21. MaidMarian — on 26th January, 2009 at 12:36 pm  

      ‘Can bloggers really fill the gap?’

      That rather assumes that ‘blogging’ is news, doesn’t it? I would argue that blogging is far more about comment, polemic even than the disinterested presentation of events.

      It may be able to fill the gap, but until it tries we will never know. A well written rant is still a rant.

    22. bananabrain — on 26th January, 2009 at 1:54 pm  

      SE still hasn’t responded to the no doubt devastating information that about half, that’s *half* of israel’s population is “brown”, being from places like iraq, iran, libya, morocco, yemen, tunisia, algeria, egypt, syria, lebanon, afghanistan, india/pakistan and, last but not least, ethiopia.

      i think processing this information might make his tiny little brain explode.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    23. Leon — on 26th January, 2009 at 1:59 pm  

      Can bloggers really fill the gap?

      Has email meant no one uses the telephone anymore?

    24. El Cid — on 27th January, 2009 at 7:50 pm  

      Sorry, I got sidetracked, like this thread.
      It’s amusing how quickly the comments went skew-whiff!!
      Bloody I/P.
      Anyway, thanks to those who gave it a proper go — especially BD. Interesting comments all round.
      Papers everywhere are in trouble. But where there’s trouble there is opportunity. As Leon suggested, the death of the printed word may be highly likely as technology improves but it is not a given. Far less probable is the death of quality journalism. There is a place for citizen journalism and there is no doubt that the rise of the Internet, digital TV, lower printing costs and the intense competition that has generated has improved PR’s capacity to impose itself on overworked journos. Some aspects of the profession have also become commoditised. I should know, trying to edit cut and pasted outsourced shite.
      However, I believe that demand for quality journalism will survive. How it survives, I don’t know, although Sarkozy’s initiative and The Guardian model someone else mentioned give cause for hope.
      On the other hand, it seems to me that while some people may be tuning in to a wider range of media (free online papers, etc), others are getting narrower (foreign language tv, single issue blogs, etc).
      For better, for worse, the potential for collective memories are not what they once were.

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