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Too much media, not enough message

Editorial Staff

Has the media lost its collective senses and its sense of responsibility or is it now driven by a desire to be "across the story" as the BBC has, infuriatingly, been saying recently in both in its news broadcasts and on its website? Are headlines more important than facts? Has the tabloid objective of telling the story in 200 words or less finally become the norm? Has scanning twitter for hashtags and republishing comments found there taken the place of research? And is it possible to find real news without there being a Trump slant on it somewhere? Indeed, does the world have any other politicians except the nominal politician and arguably the most successful chancer in recent times, US President Trump?

The New York Times has long had a credibility problem and it's not the place to go for hard news: all too often, it's wrong or fake. But its OpEds are often a treasure trove of well written, thoughtful pieces that still seem to thrive in the New York media having been lost across much of the English speaking world. And, better still, the range of topics covered are relatively free, wide ranging and, most importantly, not overly constrained by a need to restrict length.

One such piece was published yesterday ("I Ignored Trump News for a Week. Here’s What I Learned" - Farhad Manjoo) hidden away in the technology section. It said that the author set about avoiding places where there would be any coverage of Trump. Disturbingly, he failed. But equally disturbingly, he found that there were major stories that mainstream media either did not cover or gave little prominence to.

On most days, Mr. Trump is 90 percent of the news on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and probably yours, too. But he’s not 90 percent of what’s important in the world. During my break from Trump news, I found rich coverage veins that aren’t getting social play. ISIS is retreating across Iraq and Syria. Brazil seems on the verge of chaos. A large ice shelf in Antarctica is close to full break. Scientists may have discovered a new continent submerged under the ocean near Australia.

Sanjoo, New York Times, 22 February 2017

We are in a period where news has been subsumed by fashion, where news tickers are five to seven word summaries of stories, but don't tell the story, where news is "curated" by algorithms and largely focused on what will reach the top entries on search engines and their own algorithms, where a story can dominate the first three or four pages of a search engine news search for the simple reason that it has been replicated across dozens, even hundreds, of outlets, so killing any chance that a man-bites-dog story is found by those who, negligently one might say, thinks that anything important is at the top of the list. It is astonishing that the world's quirky (by which I mean those that don't relate to the current hashtag worthy story) are identified only because of someone, somewhere, has managed to get a search engine to separately index their "funny news" or whatever it is and to put it at the bottom of the search results page.

For example, while the world is directed to focus on the latest tweet sent by an insomniac who just happens to be POTUS, the plight of farmers in Africa where there are several different plagues destroying vast amounts of crops, is relegated to special programmes (that are only watched by those who have a prior interest in, e.g. farming in Africa) or, even, to channels that many ignorant people have a predisposition to ignore (for example, al Jazeera's excellent English service which is increasingly carrying the mantel that used to be worn by the now dumb-as-rocks National Geographic and the History Channel. It has already passed the BBC for excellence and for unbiased reporting, but the BBC should be used to that as, first, Channel Four and then Sky News showed up just how vacuous and fatuous the BBC has become. And this writer says that as someone who used to be a regular face on BBC News programmes when they used to do proper news and analysis.

There is real news if you spend time looking for it. Here at PleaseBeInformed.com, in our various publications, we do try to find either new material or a new slant on the existing material: for sure, we do not pretend that posting pages with a series of screen-shots of twitter or facebook postings is a valid way of reporting the news. And we don't think that Trump is the only story. We have our more or less daily "around the web" section that looks for four or five different stories with a common theme. This might be property, science, the elderly or, as it was yesterday, items gleaned from daily activity reports of police departments. There are almost no boundaries as to the content, so long as it's not repeating stories that are already heavily covered. And we have "The News Without The Crap." This is where we invite subscribers to collate both ( or, in some cases, all) sides of a story and explain, in a non-judgemental way, why the story is important. It's reporting on reporting, not a platform for the writer's own opinions or views. We really want subscribers to make this section work better than we can do with our own limited staff resources: we aim that it should become a place where people can go to find out what's important and to be pointed towards the whole story, not only one partisan view, even where the whole story is written by those with partisan views and published separately, often to their own pre-determined audience. And if independently verified facts are available, they are the most important part of the story, especially if they prove or disprove one or both of the partisan views.

Mobile phone "apps" and "curated news" websites are, inevitably a reflection of the views of those who build the products. And, no surprise, the best way to build a loyal following is to tap into something that people want to read or hear: just look at Fox News - it's facile, superficial, full of opinion masquerading as fact and, most importantly, it's a political machine. CNN is similar but without the politics. Business news programmes are, often, PR for the companies and so-called analysis is presented at breakneck speed so that it's absorbed as truth because there is no time to think and/or question. A sentence on Bloomberg TV can move markets and no one has the chance to think about it before buying or selling because everyone else watching is thinking "I have to be a first mover."

We live in an incredibly connected world where the only way to be independent is to leave your phone in a shopping centre toilet and walk into the open air. We think of people ordered to wear ankle bracelets as subject to the criminal justice system while paying for wrist bracelets that perform the same, and more, functions. We choose to look at the world through the cardboard tube in the middle of a toilet roll instead of opening our eyes and ears. We allow the media to convince us we care about actors, actresses and "personalities." We are conditioned to believe that the attention seeking are "brave." Entire TV channels are dedicated to following ordinary people, doing ordinary things and then behaving badly for the camera.

As a society, we have been dragged into a place where we have to work ever harder to find out what matters. Trump and his wall? Actually, we don't care. None of us. Not the Mexicans, not the Americans, and for sure not the drugs cartels. The wall isn't going to happen: Congress won't vote the money and no matter what Trump says, he cannot make Mexico pay for it, even if Mexico had the money, which it doesn't. But he might do a deal: he might deploy, at Mexico's request, US military to bring peace to the drugs areas, to remove the cartels, to cut off their supply chains and so on and thereby release, for a time, some of the funds Mexico uses for domestic peacekeeping and policing and then, perhaps, Mexico would use that released money to build some kind of security perimeter. But it won't be a wall and it won't be across the whole southern border of the USA. And there will be huge objection to the plan in the USA because it will be clear to anyone with an ounce of sense that the plan might be to send 500 troops, but Mexico is a large country with huge areas of sparse population and it will take large numbers of troops to police it. Will Trump even be aware that he would be setting up a drugs-trade driven version of the rebel groups in Syria, for example?

See, it's a non-news story. We don't need it. Your life was not enriched by that.

But it should be enriched by a far more important story: Brazil was confident that hosting the Olympics would turn the country's economy around. It didn't. In the past week or so, several media outlets are running versions of a story that the Brazilian government is confident that this year's Rio Carnival will bring great economic benefits. But history shows that it's a blip, that the benefits are transient. And, in truth, there's only so much mileage in a campaign that says the best that a country has to offer is that it was the last place the VW Kombi was made, that it has an annual parade of burlesque performers and it has a beach full of women with arses designed to look good in g-strings. Brazil has to find ways to fix its economy at the bottom and work up (no pun intended).

This is, then, the kind of story that is being pushed aside in favour of cheap, vacuous, trend-following reporting.

As consumers of the news, it's up to all of us to tell the general media we're fed up with soundbites, tweets and five word summaries in a ticker.

We want real news, genuine balanced comment; we don't want outrage, we don't want partisan reporting, we don't want news driven by pressure groups or limited-interest and we don't want fake news and wall-to-wall politicians.

And if we don't get it, we're not going to watch or read what they do publish.

Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/0...

References: www.thenewswithoutthecrap.com