The New Observer Uncategorized Sloppy journalism

Sloppy journalism

I’m beginning to notice a stream of mistakes journalists make in reporting.

For example: a Sky news anchor reporting on a cable car rescue drama in Pakistan reports that the cable car is 9000 ft above the valley floor. She meant 900ft.

Another one on the same story talked about the dangers of the helicopter “cutting through” the cable car cables. In fact, the danger was the downdraft from the blades could have caused the cables to break.

A Times radio report on the Ukraine-Russia war. A military expert makes some painstaking comments about how the Russians are (apparently) very good at defending, but not so good at combat manoeuvres. The young journalist pipes back, “So, as you say the Russians are very good at combat manoeuvres”, getting completely the wrong end of the stick.

I’ll probably add some more examples as I come across them.

What is going on? These are basic mistakes and it shows that the reporters are not exercising due care and/or do not have the most basic idea about that they are reporting on. Surely a journalist should be able to look at a picture of a cable car hanging over a ravine and see that it looks more like 900ft than 9000? Surely they should have some general awareness of the subject matter they are discussing with an interviewee?

Apart from rampant sloppiness what does it tell us? It tells us that these people (news anchors in the main) are not prioritising communicating the truth/facts. The reason for this, I would speculate, is that this is not in fact their task. Their tasks are other; to provide drama and entertainment, to tell a story, any story – to keep people coming back and up the viewers for the marketing department. This is not reportage, it is info-tainment. Only from this point of view does it not matter if it is 900ft or 9000. In fact, 9000 sounds better.

(If the counter-argument is that the mistakes are arising because they are rushing to get the news to air, that doesn’t alter anything; it still means they are prioritising the viewer numbers over accurate reporting. And, this excuse does not always apply; basic mistakes are made in pieces where there is no time pressure too).

One can also see how with infotaintment as the basic model doing propaganda for the state is just another variant. After all; they have already ditched the idea of truthful and objective reportage. Propaganda is just another infotainment story and, better still, they don’t even have to plan it; the government feeds it to them on a plate – the plan, the narrative, the videos from embedded with the army journalists, the views of experts from think tanks, funded (not that this is mentioned) by NATO or the EU or corporate donors. The propaganda is just more infotainment. (Recall “More pictures of dead argies on page 5”).