The Germans invented gunpowder – all credit to them! But they made up for it; they invented the press.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
A German word translated as ‘lying press’
On New Year’s Day 2012 I made a New Year’s resolution, that popular and soon-broken ritual the English so enjoy. I resolved not to buy a newspaper for a full year. Now, approaching five years later, I have broken that resolution twice, both times as souvenirs of sporting events. The rest of the ‘paper I threw away on both occasions. Anything likely to be of interest to me will appear in one or other of the weblogs I frequent, even those that appear behind the paywall of the London Times, a paywall which does not appear to be making any money, incidentally.
It’s no industry secret that British newspapers are losing money. I don’t know, but I imagine that The Sun and The Daily Mail are still solvent and happily in the black. Maybe The Express too, now that it has taken over the job The Daily Mail had of providing opinion against the grain. But The Telegraph seems to have fired everyone except the tea-lady – sorry, tea-person – The Independent is floundering, and The Guardian only fended off its inevitable demise by relying on money from the sale of Autotrader. A wonderful moment in publishing, when a newspaper which preaches endlessly about the evils of carbon emission supports itself financially from the cash obtained by selling the print agora of petrol-heads everywhere.
Naturally, in this digital age, the newspaper barons realised that they must switch to the new medium and relocate their stall in a new marketplace. Apparently, this has been a staggering failure, not least because newspapers now – and I am still confining my enquiries to the UK, knowing nothing of the press in other Western countries – are not fearless enquirers speaking truth to power, they are the provisional wing of that very same power, courtiers and catamites, bought and paid for by the world’s big power brokers. But there are other reasons that the British press is having a hard time of it now that they have left the comfortable, oak-lined inns and taverns of Fleet Street and gone to slug it out in the spit-and-sawdust saloon bars of the internet.
I think this reduces not to the medium, Marshall McLuhan notwithstanding, but to the message, and the message coming from the mainstream media (MSM), is, as you might expect, economical with the truth. Everything is coming up roses in the rose garden, if you believe the probity of the press concerning themselves. But there is a new dissidence, and it is not coming from the MSM although it concerns the MSM itself. The MSM has contravened the first rule of both journalism and politics; don’t become the story. But this revelation has not come from within the hallowed confines of the village, but from the barbarians outside the gate. There is meta-media now, which there never was before the internet. I once saw a fantastic photograph of photographers at a press conference. There were dozens of them, a forest of enormous zoom lenses, all taking photographs of a politician whose ugly mug had already infested the front pages of the ‘papers far too often. There were dozens of them. The cost of all this is, incidentally, bundled up in the astronomical price you will pay in the UK for a newspaper now, particularly a Sunday edition, which more or less needs a small travel suitcase just to get it home from the shop or down the pub.
So what role does the MSM play that can help it survive? I worked in journalism, although strictly on the production side and primarily for lifestyle trash, for some years, and met many journalists at the sharp end. They were all white, incidentally, but most of them read The Guardian, an avowedly anti-White newspaper now. But they did all agree on one thing; we need the press. Citizen journalists, impassioned bloggers and political chat rooms were never going to go out and harvest the actual news. The non-indentured op-ed artists of the internet could only ever feed from a host body. Then that changed.
It did not change because of the internet in and of itself, but because of the shift in attention effected by unlicensed writers who could create their own audience without the grail of advertising which is what keeps all British print journalism alive. When I worked for one of the biggest media companies in Britain – I have sub-edited more crap than is fair for one lifetime – the journalists were, of course, high caste. But it was the ad sales boys and girls further up the tower who were the godlings of the whole enterprise, because if that money to promote crap doesn’t keep rolling in, there won’t be a next issue to put to bed. Bloggers don’t care about advertising. Some of them attract it, but they attract it because people read their writing, and advertising watches the audience figures like a heron watches fish.
The change was, curiously, spotted by one of the most malevolent human beings ever to tarnish the gilded emblem of journalism; Alastair Campbell. Campbell, for non-Brits, was Tony Blair’s media fixer. He was, by all accounts, a bully of man. An ex-alcoholic – the very worst type of alcoholic – Campbell was the man responsible for the so-called ‘sexed-up dossier’ which took the West to its pointless and disgusting war in Iraq. Now, he garners favour by whining about his alcoholism as was, and his mental illness, of which he thinks he is a victim. An awful lot of people, many of them celebrities, confound clinical depression with a bad hangover.
Campbell it was, however, who made the point that most journalism nowadays is op-ed. Now, I had always mistakenly believed that ‘op-ed’ stood for ‘opinionated editorial‘. It does not. It stands for ‘opposite the editorial page’. It is, in effect, opinion about opinion, meta-opinion. I think my version is better. But opinionated editorial is what has taken over from reporting. If there were still the fearless reporter sharp-elbowing his way into crime scenes – and the whole of the UK is now a crime scene and ought really to be taped off with that rather fetching wasp-liveried tape – has long gone. That’s how Rotherham happened, and a thousand other cover-ups effected by the sin of omission which is modern journalism. Oh, there are courageous journalists abroad. That vile human being Erdogan has just banged up a whole load of them. Iran, China, North Korea. British journalists wouldn’t be having any long lunches if they plied their trade in any of those happy-go-lucky holiday spots. No, there is syndicated event news now, mimeographed across the several British newspapers. Everything else, at least outside of the sport, motoring, property, celebrity, arts, money and fashion sections of the modern ‘paper, is what someone thinks about what has happened.
And this is where the internet triumphs. You see, the Leftist-liberal Progressive media in the UK – aka the media in the UK – has been hoist by its own petard. One of the shibboleths of the millennial generation now coming into journalism, such as it is, is that any one person’s opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s. The internet proves this, but not to the satisfaction of the modern journalists.
Journalists hate the internet. Anyone can reference anything. Anyone can gain access to facts. Worst of all, anyone can express their opinion in print without being a special, trained journalist. Weblogs are far more entertaining and better written than newspaper journalism, and it is starting to show. I once met a sub-editor at a magazine Christmas party. He had subbed Polly Toynbee's 'writing'. What was it like, I asked. He looked at me and said mildly, Crap. It was crap.
Stop buying newspapers. Just don't do it anymore. If enough people give up this pathetic habit, you will starve the beast. I hate that self-satisfied, smug look some people have when they are reading a newspaper, as if they are keeping up with events and the rest of us are not. The free 'papers are the worst. The London Evening Standard always makes you feel ripped off when you've read it. And it's free.
Come on, take the challenge. There are books, you know, and plenty of them. You will learn more of life from Dickens, Conrad or Shakespeare than you will from Giles Coren.