The raison d'ĂȘtre of this blog is to review quality books, music, photography and other content that is seldom brought to our attention by the mainstream media.

The title EV+1 is photographic jargon for Exposure Value plus 1: increasing exposure by one stop from the metered value. Photographers use exposure compensation in order to obtain a correct exposure, when the light meter's averaged reading would be incorrect. Like a photographer allowing an extra stop of light to reach the film, I hope to shed a little light on a few under-appreciated gems.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Flat Earth News by Nick Davies

This critique of British journalism reveals a news media that is in a far worse state than even well-informed people may suspect.

Murdoch wrested power from the unions concerned when News Corp bought The Times in the eighties. Those unions did need to lose some power, as readers may recall from Bill Bryson's account of working at The Times over that period, in 'Notes from a Small Island'. But profit has far overtaken information as the main consideration for his company - and for most of the news media. Staff cutbacks are profitable and the ranks of journalists have been decimated worldwide. Now, far fewer journalists need somehow to cover the same number of stories, leaving no time for fact-checking. The best-intentioned of journalists can seldom do the job they would like to do. Due to the resulting rush, press releases are merely regurgitated, adapted to house style. 

But media companies don't only want to have fewer journalists at the coal face; they want to be first as well. In the resulting rush (and one can't be both rushed and accurate in journalism) even the BBC allows its online journalists only five minutes per article.

I knew that the Daily Mail had a bad name, but the paper is worse than bad: it is systematically propagandist. If a journalist is working on a story and the editors find out that it's about a black person, the story is cancelled. (If the person in question is a criminal, I wonder: would it still be cancelled?) 

The Daily Mail systematically lies - and does so in a way calculated to stir up prejudice against minorities and disempowered sections of the community (such as asylum seekers). It also tells blatant lies about celebrities, many of whom have been awarded damages against the paper. 

If a complaint is upheld against The Daily Mail (fat chance, as the British press complaints authority upholds only .6% of complaints - yes, the decimal point is correct), it will publish a 'clarification' somewhere around p.68. Any such comment will never get the prominence of the original lie. It's a profitable way to operate, so that's what the paper does.

Piers Morgan (that paragon of integrity ... ho ho) said: 'The public is always right.' The Daily Mail is aimed at middle-class rednecks, so lies taylor-made for that market are what it writes.

The misinformed public of such newspapers is huge, with the result that such rags set a good chunk of the political agenda. Any government which places more importance on reelection than integrity (which seems to mean all governments), will cater to a constituency that uncritically soaks up 'flat earth news'.

A cynical and self-serving media creates a cynical, self-serving, ignorant and prejudiced public - a public to which cynical and self-serving governments in turn feel bound to cater.

With a news media like this, how can democracy not suffer?

We need a better media than this. I hope it's not this bad in New Zealand, but wouldn't know, as I get all my news from Radio NZ (which hopefully is at least honest, if under-resourced).

I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Publisher's description - excerpts:

'An award-winning reporter exposes falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media.'

'"Finally I was forced to admit that I work in a corrupted profession." When award-winning journalist Nick Davies decided to break Fleet Street's unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues, he found that the business of truth had been slowly subverted by the mass production of ignorance.'

'Working with a network of off-the-record sources, Davies uncovered the story of the prestigious Sunday newspaper which allowed the CIA and MI6 to plant fiction in its columns; the daily newsroom where senior reporters casually refer to 'nig nogs' and where executives routinely reject stories about black people; the respected quality paper which was so desperate for scoops that it hired a conman to set up a front company to entrap senior political figures. He found papers supporting law and order while paying cash bribes to bent detectives and hiring private investigators to steal information....'