The need for quality journalism

I am wondering whether the next four years could represent a huge milestone where we re-learn what actually matters from the mistakes that will, inevitably, happen.

Not for one minute do I expect a Trump Presidency to be smooth sailing – already the die seems to be cast with his appointment of Bannon as his chief White House strategist and senior counselor.

The headline on this editorial in the New York Times gives us a clue as to what might lie in store, as does Russia’s renewed and intensified bombing of Aleppo just hours after Putin talked to Trump on the ‘phone.

Trump and The Media

There are mistakes that have been made already – and one crucial one involves the media and how it has, largely, become a voice of the liberal elite for the liberal elite.

By and large the media is staffed nowadays by university-educated people who tend, by definition, not to be in touch with working class/lower middle class ideals whether right or left of the political spectrum.

That is not a criticism, it is an observation, but it shows when I see opinion pieces and even news stories which tend to quote the usual suspects – but usual suspects who tend to be on the same kind of class level as the authors.

Liberal elites tend to inhabit Government (don’t think Oxford or Cambridge here – in the UK, the majority of the civil service is drawn from the middle and upper-middle classes – not from the working classes – and MPs are very often public-school/university educated) as well as organisations that the media turn to for comment.

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Add to that the web-driven splintering of channels which has not only eroded the media’s reading base but has also seriously eroded its advertising (revenue) base and a picture emerges of smaller staff, at worst, chasing clickbait stories and at best, trying to sustain the output expected when staff was twice the size.

The latter means that journalists will look to the quick and easy options which almost always lead to quoting the usual suspects and …  liberals quoting liberals.

Of course this is a generalisation and there are journalists and media organisations out there which will not fit into this assessment.

Sadly, I fear that they are increasingly in the minority as more and more media organisations prioritise resources on reporting things like the X Factor, the Great British Bake off or shit-stirring on Prince Harry’s latest girlfriend.

Sadly? Yes. Not just because it means the erosion of a great industry that has boasted multiple examples of brilliance that have literally changed the course of history but because I fear whether it will learn from the mistakes highlighted by the orange turd’s march to victory.

It was massively out of touch.

Can it learn from its mistakes and change? Can it up its game on fact-checking? Can it be more analytical? Can it reach out more to the ‘common man’? Can it (once again) say it has its finger on the pulse?

The answer? Yes.

How? I’ve always maintained that content is king and that is has been since the cavemen learnt to paint pictures. We all love a story and journalists are the best story tellers.

There is no-one better equipped at stripping a story down to its most basic – and most important – parts and then rebuilding it in a way that is informative and very easy to read.

That is a bit simplistic and the rebuilding process can very be hard – fact-checking, getting access to those who need to be questioned, following the paper trail etc can be a long process.

But at the end of it, there is a story that can stand the test of time; that is representative of differing views, cultures and classes, that is informative and which has its finger on the pulse. It is quality.

What happens when we stop producing quality journalism? What happens if people stop supporting quality journalism? https://medium.com/@ashadornfest/this-is-what-happens-when-we-stop-paying-for-quality-journalism-9be9c8d49dea#.pmckdz6h6

One answer is that we let in a Trump – or that at the very least, we are surprised that we let in a Trump. We are surprised that Brexit boiled down in large part to immigration.  We are surprised by a wave of anti-Semitism. The books have been burned, the propaganda machine has been allowed to run unchecked.

Now the most important question of all, can it happen?

Yes.

How? If we have learned one thing from Trump it must be the importance of being properly informed. If the public want to be properly informed they must support the organisations and individuals that do that, not out of any altruistic sense but to ensure ‘Trump the Sequel’ does not happen again.

In turn, media organisations must look at the way they operate and ask if their priorities are right. Do they want to pursue clickbait journalism or do they want to pursue what I would call ‘proper’ (read quality) journalism?

Of course, the first question they will ask is whether there is a mass market for ‘proper’ journalism? Can they sustain their profit margins?

My belief and hope is that that can happen, that it can be a popular and important antidote to the thousands of inane words spent on trivia. As I’ve said, we’ve enjoyed stories since the caveman and journalists are the best at story telling.

If it does not? Well, be prepared to be Trumped.

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