13 March 2017

A shared sense of responsibility

In a recent editorial, the sports journalist Jonathan Wilson talked about discussing the Hillsborough disaster at a panel event. He stated optimistically that he felt a cover-up on such a scale could not occur in an age of citizen journalism because important questions would be asked far earlier in the age of social media. Wilson saw the weakening of the mainstream media as ‘broadly positive’.

That optimism appears misplaced. In 2017, notions of authority and truth have been eroded: we now inhabit a world where one ‘truth’ is as valid as another, all opinions have equal weight and experts are always wrong.

Wilson argues that expertise and authority matter because all opinions are not equal. Whilst experts should be questioned (and do get it wrong), they are more likely to be right than someone half-remembering a conversation in a pub and applying it to their personal views.

The mainstream media should stand against this but resource is an issue; proper scrutiny becomes impossible. Instead, writers and editors spend their limited time searching for lines, wrenching quotes out of context, trying to trip people up, sensationalising and generating clickbait. Skew may be unavoidable, but distortions, untruths and recklessly inflammatory headlines undermine the concepts of authority and truth. The mainstream press should stand as arbiters & their formal structure used to ensure a measure of balance

Individuals should challenge journalists and, when errors are made, errors should be acknowledged. However, comments sections prove that people often cannot differentiate ‘errors’ from their own differing opinion.

The core problem with citizen journalism is that it lacks the authority that mainstream press used to have: what biases does an individual blogger have and what agenda are they pushing?

There is a need, now more than ever, for a sense of responsibility from writers and editors because truth is a virtue in need of being upheld.

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I wrote the above yesterday evening. A lot of hawks writing never sees the light of day; I'm only letting this out to sit alongside this morning's news that Lyn Gardner's contract to write 150 blogs annually for The Guardian will not be renewed.

According to The Guardian's fee page, a blog entry for them pays £90.00 (as an expert, Lyn's rate may differ), totalling £13,500.

Whilst The Guardian may be able to get better value for that £13,500 of spend, the loss to the sector is astronomically higher.

I had the pleasure of being involved in a show that went to Edinburgh last year (in a financial advisory capacity, don't get excited). The show featured in a minor way in some of Lyn's festival coverage. The effect was immediate: sold out shows for the next week and strong attendance for the rest of the run. The interest generated has consequently allowed the show to have a life after the fringe, to the benefit everyone who gets to see it and everyone involved in making it.

Lyn allows for audiences to find hundreds of shows and artists over the course of the year. Nobody else does this such care, balance, with the best interests of the artists in mind and in a mainstream publication. A huge loss that must be rectified: please let me know if I can help.

For the record, I blame the bloggers.*



*Joke