Tuesday, July 11, 2006

May the Daily Mail be minced, slowly

I managed to catch a bit of the event by Alertnet (linked right), whose Media Player stream was inaccessible until someone in Caifornia helpfully supplied a stream which was usable across platforms.

As we at Never Again in London are hoping to host a seminar which looks at many of the same issues, I was interested to see how they approached the topic and honestly, whether it was worth putting ours on at all.

They had a catchy hook for the event - on reporting about children in the most dangerous places, but this seemed to lead to disappointment from many of the bloggers listening when the debate turned mainly on the operations of NGOs and the press rather than child voices. The section I heard most clearly involved a journalist criticising the luxurious conditions in which NGOs operate in. And everyone laughed. The other clear message, from the Daily Mail at least, was that 'our readers' aren't interested in local voices. They want to know what their familiar white commentators have to say on an issue, they want to see people just like them, caught in a crisis.

The newspapers often convey this clear impression of their readers desires but I've rarely seen them test it. Their readers are generally portrayed as being as callous as they are in the newsroom or otherwise fleeing, 'switching off' from the hopeless and the bad. And yet that doesn't stop them flogging lame Labour government stories at us every day.

I read Global Voices most days and would be amazed if there wasn't a huge audience for this well edited, interesting content that synthesises points of views and colours news with experience. The bleak every day reality of daily bombings is rarely hopeless if you take with it the humour and good nature of real people who, I barely need remind you, live with this reality every day. From Israel to Rwanda, it is the countries with the greatest turmoil that show those of us in the fat west that life is to be lived.

Journalists don't give their readers the chance to be interested in humanitarian crises because they're all lazy. The woman from the Mail, I shall call her simply *that woman*, proved it as she mentioned that blogs are "notoriously unreliable". Which in a world of *millions* of blogs is even more ridiculous than calling all journalists lazy. You might as well call all people liars, unless they work for the Daily Mail. Many blogs are unreliable, as White Llama fans well know, but many just tell the truth as they see it. Not unlike journalists.

A rather angry blogosphere was much diminished by the end of the seminar, when the IRC representative suddenly fired a shot across the room which, I hope, will bring a slight chill to mainstream newsrooms across the country. As the seminar had been going on, a series of bombs across India - as large in their scale as the London bombs which still dominate the British press - were being reported and depicted on the web, eyewitnesses were Skypecasting and Flickring, bloggers were beng heard, more bloggers were synthesising, hours before the newspapers will hit the stands. Not for the web the inanity of repetitive, mawkish rolling coverage, the voices and images of that news will be heard on the web. The room erupted into applause, proving that the passion is in the blogosphere and the press is being trodden underfoot; chip paper today.

So what, you undoubtedly wanted to know paragraphs ago, does all this mean for our seminar to discuss media and the Responsibility to Report? Almost certainly that it's like trying to stuff ten cats into a sack (forgive the simile, it's not real). Possibly that it's time for the mainstream media to seriously start engaging in the conversation before they find that all their readers have gone.

Now, I'm riddled with hostility towards the British newspaper industry. I hate hate hate it and the likes of that woman. This isn't good. I accept a pressing need for work on the conflict inside myself. After all, mainstream news organisations provides the money for journalism and I'm in absolutely no doubt that we need journalists. A democracy means paying the people who ask the questions as much as we pay the people who make the decisions. Journalism is a lot more than simply a collection of what people want to write, it is often about exposing what nobody wants to read. Like many spheres, it isn't the people who are evil, but the structures that lead people to decide that genocide isn't news until the victims look more like 'us'. That's the dilemma I hope we will be able to make progress on.

Oh and as for the children? Give them all blogs. Record their stories, their views. The Daily Mail ain't interested in you, little ducks, but plenty of others will be.

1 comment:

tom said...

Ugh. Disappointing but unsurprising, as you suggest.

Maybe the Mail's representative should stop believing everything she reads in the papers.

No disrespect - hehehaha - but had there not been so many of them about, maybe someone would have pointed out that journalists are notoriously unreliable too!

None the less, my cynical (and eternally disappointed) alter ego suggests that she probably knows her market only too well, no?

Keep it up with the quality journalism.