Ms .45's mp3/bureaucratic/gaming blog.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blair's media whinge

Whilst I have a small amount of sympathy, Tony Blair's screed against the modern media is not really anything new. He is, in effect, whining about news values -

Tell me how many maiden speeches are listened to; how many excellent second reading speeches or committee speeches are covered. Except when they generate major controversy, they aren't. If you are a backbench MP today, you learn to give a press release first and a good parliamentary speech second.

Firstly, news values have been like that ever since media have existed. Dog bites man is not news, man bites dog is. When things are going well, there's nothing to report. This is a problem, but it's not unique to today's media-saturated world.

Secondly, is it necessarily a problem that the press release comes before the speech? Surely you would write one and re-purpose it towards the other? Provided that your ideas are fundamentally sound, a dot-point presentation for lazy journalists should not do those ideas any injustice. Commentators like to complain that sound-bite culture erodes the quality of political discussion, and it certainly can - both left and right wingers love to take comments out of context. But soundbites have some value in that it forces the speaker to tightly communicate their point.

The other mistake Blair makes is to assume that all readers are dumbshits who don't take into account context and hyperbole. Plenty are, of course, but many readers (and voters) are perfectly capable of taking into account who the writer/speaker is, what else is going on in the issue, and identifying emotive words like "savage".

As Blair acknowledges, "There is a market in providing serious, balanced news. There is a desire for impartiality. The way that people get their news may be changing, but the thirst for the news being real news is not." The thing is that the real news may still not be what Blair wants to hear.

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