Sunday, 13 September 2009

Flat Earth News

I am currently reading Nick Davies 'Flat Earth News' which I eventually got round to purchasing having been to see him talk at last years Edinburgh Book Festival. What an insight into the Media this had allowed. I am a natural cynic so will often view claims in newspapers with an element of scepticism. I was perhaps giving the press too much credit. This makes me wonder about the media and their responsibility in a democracy. One of the key features of a democratic society is a free press. Is our press really free though? It is widely accepted that New Labour's pro-European stance has been muted by pressure from Murdoch in return for his news outlets support. And what about responsibility? The media furore surrounding swine flu was irresponsible reporting. Cheap, shock tactics aimed at maximising circulation. Davies highlights the Y2K bug in the first chapter of his book which saw countries businesses and individuals spend millions spurred on by the media in order to prevent an event which was blown out of all proportion - by the media.
If we cannot trust the media to report accurately then who are we as citizens supposed to trust and how are we expected to make informed choices? The internet undoubtedly has had a massive impact on how we gain and spread information but can we rely on it solely either? If the internet is to replace the traditional newspaper then at what cost? I have asked more questions than I can answer here but I am increasingly frustrated with journalism, media hype and bias in the UK and I want to know what the solution is! Perhaps I am viewing the role of the media incorrectly. Perhaps I should not view it as having a responsibility but more as a means of generating revenue, another cog in the wheel of our capitalist society. Perhaps I even overestimate the influence that the media has on people - after all the SNP are doing well despite overwhelming adverse media coverage. I keep thinking back though to those ideas about democracy and what differentiates our democratic government from dictatorship and I cannot help thinking that I have put too much faith in the idea of a free press.


  1. Good post Johanna - as they say: there is no such thing as a free lunch, and in this case no such thing as a free press. Someone somewhere owns that newspaper, magazine or TV station (in the case of the Beeb, it is the government that holds the power, although they would deny it). All we can hope for is that there are enough reports in enough diverse publications, that if we are well read we can form our own opinion on what is the truth, what is misleading, and what is just downright lies.

  2. Jeez Johanna, have you seen today's SoS?
    A civil servant's exploration of a totally unworkable taxation plan(Taxing cyclists FFS), suddenly becomes an SNP flagship policy...

  3. Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.

    -Albert Camus

  4. Conan - I am guessing that the Unionist media (I could probably drop the media as it is pretty much all unionist!) will be stepping their game up over coming months. To quote a once prominent female politician 'bring it on!'. What doesn't kill & all that!!

    Mr Mxyzptlk - that quote is just absurd ;)