Thoughts on Reporting and the News

I’ve become a bit dismayed by the news of late. Not necessarily what the news is covering (the subject matter) but the presentation of it. News has become a commercial entity and disassociated from the concept of service or link to civic and public space. The news today is driven by the same algorithmic curation that defines reality TV. I’m not suggesting that this is a new phenmenon, but rather it has become dominant. Alterative sources of news are disappearing or being drowned out. There is no single source of Quality Journalism, in fact the idea of quality being applied to news reporting seems to akin be a quaint concept from yesteryear. Qualty has no place in the industrial era of news. News is faster, stronger, higher and faster than ever before. It’s full of POWER and EXPLOSIONS. It saturates all aspects of life, entering our consiousness from every angle, medium and format. News is now multi-channel-cross-platform-psychologically-manipulaive-viral-content-chunks aimed at milking tears, and fury, and laughter for the full 10 seconds you actually pay it attention. Then it’s on to the next thing.

The news doesn’t matter. The news isn’t a reflection of real life, its constitutes all the exceptions to the rule. Each war and death and scandal are out weighed by the persistent peace, life and normality of existence. The news won’t change the world, nor will it help you understand it. It might help you feel it, to run up your spine like charge but it is momentary. The news doesn’t engage you., because the news has another item coming up in the schedule it wants you to pay attenion to.

I think that news has to become something else. I think traditional sources – newspapers and their digital counterparts in particular – have to change what they do when it comes to news. They need to see news as a service to their community. They need to think beyond immediacy and start to think about the long term. What if news embraces it’s temporal nature and became more historical? Rather than treating each item of news as a singular, never seen before event, it contextualised it. What if it showed news in a historical context, mapped it’s evolution, showed it’s spread and influence? What if news was more like a timelapse rather than clickbait?

My personal preference for news and reporting at the moment, where the actual quality stuff isn’t coming from, is not traditional media but from the upstarts like Vice and Buzzfeed. For what it’s worth topical comedy shows are doing a better job of reporting news and current affairs. A John Oliver segment has more effort and rigour applied to it than most daily newspapers and news reports. And it shows. I can engage with John Oliver, I can’t with a newspaper that jus regurgitates press releases

VICE programs seem to focus on narrative. Reporting is mixed with stories and real people. Does it make it more subjective? Yes, but it doesn’t shy away from that. It’s not pretending to be objective, nor is it trying to serve the interests of their corporate sponsors like corporate news channels. Reporting needs a story to be relatable. If I’m watching a piece about the destruction in Syria I should be crying, I shouldn’t be an objective experience. I should be feeling it. I should be connecting to it, and most of all I should be affected by it. When was that the case after watching the television news? Or reading a newspaper? When did the news from these traditional sources actually aim to affect you?

Alternative media seems to be bringing back the humanity required to tell the news.


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