News used to be either something that someone somewhere did not want known. Otherwise it was something so unusual that it would be a source of amusement or interest to sufficient folk as to make its publication worthy. Journalists used to spend their days digging out stories about corruption and dodgy dealing in high places, or human interest stuff that was intended to make us laugh or say ‘Well I never…’.
At the National Council for the Training of Journalists (the body which issues the best professional qualification for journalists) there were two anecdotes used by tutors, year after year, to illustrate the point.
They would say: “Dog bites man, not news; man bites dog, news.”
And another old chestnut was: “Trainee journalist sent to cover wedding; comes back after an hour, sits at his desk and drinks his tea. ‘Where’s the wedding story?’ asked the news editor. ‘There was no wedding,’ said the hapless youth. ‘Church burnt down.’”
Those come from the days when it was normal for women and men working for newspapers and magazines to talk to people, find things out and write newsworthy stories for publication.
When did opinion start to become news? When did it become normal for professional, respected news outlets to use Twitter content to fill their pages?
Because I am interested in the world and am involved in it, I need accurate information about daily events, trends and possible outcomes so that I can do all that is possible to secure my family and myself against the “…slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
Content and communications failures in the media mean that few citizens are sufficiently informed – the Economist, FT and New York Times are not for everyone – to make important decisions that affect their lives now, their lives in the future and the lives of others including their children.
A financial crisis is unfolding in the UK as a direct result of the vote to leave the EU. In November, Donald Trump may become the next President of the United States. Turkey is about to become a carbon copy of Iraq complete with a Saddam Hussein clone.
I really want to know what these events mean to me, my family and my business. Not from opinions on Twitter and other social media used by news outlets as content but from people who have found out whether I need a nuclear shelter in the back garden or not.
Unlike Michael ‘People in this country have had enough of experts’ Gove, I want to to hear what experts, people who know far more about these things than I do, think and predict. I am wholly disinterested in knowing what Sid and Doris Bonkers in Neasden (pace Private Eye) think, because they know as little as I do.
I find it alarming that only companies, and not individuals, are required by law not to lie to us in their communications. Why is there no law which states that content published on social media must be legal, decent honest and true as well? Or is posting not publishing?