Having dragged myself away from both work and the Tour for a little bit, I discover that there’s been a bit happening this last week.
The big story as far as the papers were concerned seems to have been the NotW getting caught out doing the same sort of stuff the rest of them all do. Though it’d seem that New International really aren’t the worst of them that prize goes to Trinity Mirror, but they of course aren’t run by the “evil” Murdochs. So there are fewer calls for the government to stamp on them, which rather ignores that much like Tesco and other “evil” companies they make money because people buy what they’re selling. Don’t want a Tesco to stay open never shop there stick to your local shops even when it’s less convenient, don’t want Murdoch don’t buy any of his product not just NotW, but anything published by Harper Collins and no films produced by 20th Century Fox either or any of his other brands – oh and write to the firms that advertise with them and then boycott them as well. Can’t do that then I guess they’re probably not that evil really.*
Whilst many are clamouring for the demise of the main stream press (or at least Murdoch’s bits of it) and it has in many cases failed us – I wonder what might replace it as we need something to tell us what’s going on in the world (and provide that vital coverage of the Tour). I’m not sure we’re quite ready for the complete take over by the citizen journalist – at least till we have much better aggregators. Blogs are excellent for opinion (and in the case of this blog recycling other peoples opinions), but so far at least they don’t provide the mix of coverage possible by the mainstream press. None of which is to say they haven’t picked up and broken important stories, and discovered things the mainstream press hasn’t – just that at the moment the value seems to be more in picking up and high lighting stories the established media for one reason or another would rather not touch.
Having said that I’m not sure that the internet is ready to take over from the mainstream press, I think that maybe the powers that be think we’ve made enough of an inroad already. For on the back of this “scandal” which it seems likely that every journalist and politician was well aware of but hoped we’d not notice our glorious leader wants more control of the press. Now come people might say the press needs taming, but do you really want our politicians having any control over one of the more effective mechanisms by which they’re kept to account? Do you think the expenses scandal would have been reported if the MPs had over sight of the press? It’s not working so well in Hungary, at least not as far as the opposition press are concerned. Lets also think how such press responsibility legislation might affect us humble bloggers. Obviously you’d have to have some body with which “the press” was registered, either on a publication level or maybe down to an individual level. Want to be a reporter register with the ministry of truth. This creates a bar for anyone wanting to start a new paper or even become a reporter, and I doubt that a registered press would touch a story from a non-accredited reporter. Beyond that there would then be a legal divide between the citizen journalist (blogger) and the “real” press – would unregistered reporting become an offence or merely a slur to discredit unwelcome stories from the internet? If the mainstream media start supporting more powerful regulation of the press by the state then I’d say watch out for it being used to suppress reporting by anyone not in the club.
* I personally don’t think there are actually that many evil companies and if you actually avoided dealing with all of the ones that are apparently widely considered evil and everything they had shares in or who advertised with them etc. Well you’d pretty soon not be able to use any large company, and probably very few small local ones. Just how far does the saint of “evil” extend?