Saturday, 3 December 2011

Where have the spikes of yesteryear gone?


A man has a product that’s neither original nor distinctive which he’s trying to shift in a saturated marketplace. The TV company he works for invites him onto one of its magazine shows to plug the product. He sits down with the programme’s editor and together they cook up something topically and typically “controversial” for him to say. He goes on air and says it.
You are a journalist. Question: is this “controversy” a genuine story? Your answer is? No? Of course not. How could it be?
According to The Times, Charles Dickens once wrote this in defence of journalists and journalism: “I would venture to remind you how much we, the public, owe to the reporters for their skill in the two great sciences of condensation and rejection.”
Would you agree that the journalist should not just be a scientist of rejection, but has an absolute duty to reject the fake, the phoney, and the cynical manipulation of the channels of publicity for commercial or political ends?
Shouldn’t every journalist (even those who worked for that interested party, the BBC, if they were journalists of integrity) have spiked the story of Jeremy Clarkson saying that striking public service workers ought to be shot (in case you hadn’t noticed, Christmas is coming and Mr Clarkson wants to sell us his latest DVD’s)? And shouldn’t they likewise have ignored the noisy clambering onto the bandwagon of other interested parties with selves to promote?
Alas, multiple channels and 24-hour news have destroyed both of Dickens’ journalistic sciences.
Give Radio 5 or Sky News or BBC News 24 a Press Conference which, once upon a time, might have made a lucky 90 seconds in a slow bulletin, and they’ll gratefully surrender their airwaves to its interminable entirety. So much for “condensation”.
Give almost any journalist, staring distraught at the yawning acreage of output ahead of him or her, a “controversy”, a “survey”, a PR stunt, a howl of concocted outrage from a pressure group or the fart of a fading celebrity, and he or she will roll over and fire up engines of hype, masquerading as objectivity. So much for “rejection”.
Où sont, comme j’ai dit, les spikes d’antan?