What’s right and what’s wrong with the news industry these days?
Much seems wrong, of late. Witness the truly sordid journalism run amok in the phone hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World.
What about closer to home? How fare the media and journalists who feed the ravenous beast?
Kai Nagata says he liked his job, in many ways. But he left a plum position with some critical views on news gathering in general, and TV news, in particular.
Criticizing TV news in public radio circles is only too easy. Public radio knows it is – or certainly wants to be – far superior to most of that twaddle. But Nagata’s essay asks questions worth pondering, in any format. Who determines the scope, direction and content of reporting? What constraints exist, spoken and unspoken?
Nagata’s essay is well-written, if a bit wordy – something I understand only too well myself. (Being wordy, I mean. Well-written, not so much.) And it’s easy to argue that advocacy of personal views doesn’t belong in objective coverage. So if Nagata now needs to speak his mnd, maybe quitting was the correct response. That or become a columnist, where standards differ.
But Nagata nails two markedly regrettable trends: chasing the lowest hanging fruit and the race to the bottom. Something just exemplified by excessive coverage of a perfectly pleasant – but minor event. As Nagata wrote:
… it creates things like the Kate and Will show. Wall-to-wall, breaking-news coverage of a stage-managed, spoon-fed celebrity visit, justified by the couple’s symbolic relationship to a former colony, codified in a document most Canadians have never read (and one province has never signed). On a weekend where there was real news happening in Bangkok, Misrata, Athens, Washington, and around the world, what we saw instead was a breathless gaggle of normally credible journalists, gushing in live hit after live hit about how the prince is young and his wife is pretty. And the public broadcaster led the charge.
Yes, I am guilty of filing a few small items about the royals. But I was left wondering if the outbreak of WW III would have generated the coverage just seen here, regarding that particular visit.
It was nuts. And that sort of thing seems to be the new normal.
There’s a curse filled with dark humor: “May you live in interesting times”.
As print media wrestles with incredible challenges, TV continues to re-define its role, public broadcasting struggles on many fronts and so-called new media continues to evolve, it does make me wonder, what IS news, anyway? Because I don’t always feel what I hear and read fits the definition.
So what public interest, what personal curiosity, should a news function serve? And, in the case of Murdoch-like excess, who will watch the watchers?