Saturday, September 13, 2008

Liar, Liar.

Journalists from the mainstream press don't think much of bloggers, as Dan Collins explains on his excellent Blog (which was recently voted Britain's Number One source of information concerning events at Monday Books).

Whilst many blogs really are as dull as ditch water, the 'work blogs' in particular, give a genuineness and reality that the newspapers cannot compete with, because they are written by someone who actually does the job and really does know what they are talking about. Each of our posts is open for comment by our readers and unlike the newspapers most of us don't feel much need to moderate those comments.

On the other hand, a newspaper article, for example on teaching; will have been produced from interview notes by a journalist with no experience of the job and then further edited to give the paper's own perspective. If you've ever been interviewed by one, you will be absolutely astonished to see that what is printed bears no relation to what you actually said. Funnily enough they won't agree to let you see the article before it goes to print either, probably because you'd go mad and shout things like "But I never said that!" After it has appeared, you get no chance to argue or refute their claims.

As far as accuracy is concerned; the mainstream press will believe just about anything; the more ridiculous the better. For example, two weeks ago every newspaper reported that the swimmer Michael Phelps was taking in 12000 calories a day at the Olympics. It never occurred to any of their editors that a: he would be in the tapering phase so probably taking in little more than an average man of his size and b: simple arithmetic would show that unless he were exercising continuously 24 hours per day; such a huge intake would leave him unable to even move. Phelps himself recently said that he had absolutely no idea why the newspapers had printed such figures. (By way of comparison, a Tour de France rider racing for 5-7 hours a day would take in 5 to 6 thousand.)

Hoaxes and basic factual errors are ten a penny in the press. Last year we had the Meerkat hoax, where the papers clearly believed that the animals at Logleat were happily taking photos of one another. This can join crop circles and UFOs, along with the obviously faked pictures of British troops abusing Iraqis that the Mirror fell for, the Hitler Diaries etc... I could go on, but the truth is that the newspapers rarely check to see if facts make sense, as witnessed by the stream of elementary science and basic mathematical errors that routinely appear. (These increase rapidly as the subject becomes more difficult for example (MRSA, DNA testing, the MMR vaccine or the Large Hadron Collider at CERN)

Work blogging is a very new phenomenon but it is definitely starting to have an impact on the mainstream press.

Now did you hear that if you are ever held up at a cash machine you can type your PIN number in backwards and it will send a call through to the Police....


Boy on a bike said...

My partner was recently interviewed by our local paper. The journalist inserted phrases that she never uttered in the interview, and as far as I know, included words that she has never used in her entire life. It read like it came from another person.

I don't know why journalists bother to carry tape recorders, as they don't seem to know how to use a recorded interview.

Anonymous said...

I was quoted in the local newpaper when I wasn't even interviewed! Maybe journalists have found a way of interviewing by telepathy?

Anonymous said...

I suspect that many blog readers have given up on the mainstream media and rely on blogs such as yours for a more accurate view of life at any given coalface.

Even the BBC is no more than a Nulab propaganda unit, full of pretty boys and bimbos spouting nonsense for the Big Brother audience. I'm 56 and can remember a time when it wasn't quite so bad.

Bah, humbug, etc. BTW, what do you make of the Brussels campaign to regulate bloggers, have them licenced and their anonymity removed?