The search for impartiality….
If, post-Covid, we can ever fully come to terms with the devastating human cost this dreadful disease has brought upon us then we might allow ourselves a moment to reflect upon the role of the media during this crisis and, moving forward, its future worth.
I have no political allegiance whatsoever, I read books and essays by those on both sides of the spectrum. I have books written by Henry Kissinger, Noam Chomsky, William F. Buckley Jnr, Eric Hobsbawm, Christopher Hitchens and Gore Vidal. I have biographies of JFK, Stalin, Thatcher, Guevara and Mao, histories of British and American Special Forces, Irish, Middle Eastern and European terrorists/freedom fighters. I form my own opinions and in turn, I respect other, alternative opinions and refrain from admonishing them for it.
What I look for is factual information in order for me to form an informed understanding of the subject. Finding that has become increasingly difficult and the relish with which media outlets and individual journalists brazenly demonstrate their political leanings is, I find, deeply disturbing. When a BBC employee, bound by its own corporations rules on impartiality is routinely praised by left-leaning viewers for her diatribes against the government then you know that impartiality ethic is a nonsense. The British television-owning public are legally bound to pay a BBC licence fee whether one views their channels or not. Failure to comply results in letters of threats of legal action should you not pay it or indeed no longer own a television. And for what? To have the national broadcaster inflict their own anti-government agenda on the viewer?
I do not care for the opinion of the BBC, Sky, Fox, CNN, Russia Today et al, if I wanted biased opinion which agreed with my own stance I have the World Wide Web at my disposal and millions of smartphone warriors ready to feed my needs. That’s fine, but from a journalist I expect up to date news presented in a factual manner. What this pandemic has shown us is the curse of the journalist as a wanabee celebrity with a craving to be liked and championed and as competition grows for that particular spotlight so the need to be more inflammatory, more aggressive, has seen its anchors plunge into a quagmire it will never escape from. And it won’t, print journalism is in dire straits; online outlets constantly use a celebrity’s social media feed to garner a ‘news’ story from, click bait challenges every fibre of our patience and it’s here to stay. But it will eventually eat itself because a trending hashtag on Twitter in no way reflects the majority of that country and people outside the Twitter political bubble are increasingly turning to alternate sources for both news and entertainment content. Pair that with the savage cuts to advertising which these media outlets have long relied upon and we begin to get a clearer understanding of the problem: noticeability on a global platform.
In decades past, journalists and newsreaders garnered respect for their level-headed, honest reporting of facts. The British journalist James Cameron suffered no fools and his piece to camera or closing paragraph was often heartfelt and hard-hitting. But it was always delivered in a measured, dignified manner. The greats of reportage became notorious not for sensationalism and shouting the loudest but for their dogged determination for the truth, it was the exposé which mattered and they became legends as a result. Journalism, like seemingly everything else has become a cheap, watered-down version of its former self and an investigation of its own being is needed before it really is too late.