Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blair on motives & the media

British PM Tony Blair gives all sections of the media - including the blogosphere - a carefully directed spray. He accuses the media of behaving like a 'feral beast' that 'tears people and reputations to bits'. He is concerned with the emphasis on analysing motives (a theme I have also recently emphasised) and in critiquing policies at the expense of explaining what the policies are.

The media (including the blogosphere) spend far too much time thinking about the motives for policies and critiquing policies and far too little time thinking about what the implications of policy will be. Newspapers, for example, become 'viewspapers' as news gets usurped by (often) uninformed commentary.

Blair:

' Tell me how many maiden speeches are listened to; how many excellent second-reading speeches or committee speeches are covered. Except when they generate major controversy, they aren’t . If you are a backbench MP today, you learn to give a press release first and a good Parliamentary speech second'

'...as a result of the changing context in which 21st-century communications operates, the media are facing a hugely more intense form of competition .... They are not the masters of this change but its victims. The result is a media that increasingly and to a dangerous degree is driven by “impact”. Impact is what matters. It is all that can distinguish, can rise above the clamour, can get noticed. Impact gives competitive edge. Of course the accuracy of a story counts. But it is secondary to impact. It is this necessary devotion to impact that is unravelling standards, driving them down, making the diversity of the media not the strength it should be but an impulsion towards sensation above all else'. (my bold)

'....scandal or controversy beats ordinary reporting hands down. News is rarely news unless it generates heat as much as or more than light. Second, attacking motive is far more potent than attacking judgement. It is not enough for someone to make an error. It has to be venal. Conspiratorial'. (my bold)

'... there will often be as much interpretation of what a politician is saying as there is coverage of them actually saying it. In the interpretation, what matters is not what they mean; but what they could be taken to mean. This leads to the incredibly frustrating pastime of expending a large amount of energy rebutting claims about the significance of things said, that bears little or no relation to what was intended'. (my bold)

'...it is rare today to find balance in the media. Things, people, issues, stories, are all black and white. Life’s usual grey is almost entirely absent. “Some good, some bad”; “some things going right, some going wrong” – these are concepts alien to today’s reporting. It’s a triumph or a disaster. A problem is “a crisis”. A setback is a policy “in tatters”. A criticism, “a savage attack”'.

These are fair comments from an experienced politician.

2 comments:

derrida derider said...

What he said was true enough, but it was a bit rich coming from the master of media manipulation and political spin. To put it mildly, he did little to retard, and much to accelerate, these trends

ws said...

great site, will use it for my school project