I got a Private Eye subscription for Christmas. The biggest perk of being an Eye subscriber is having cancellation as the ultimate threat if they do something I really dislike, so obviously ever since January I’ve been looking out for something to inspire a tart letter and a stopped direct debit. And handily, it turns out that I do think the Eye is flagging a bit.
They didn’t feature anything about the Dunblane story in the last issue. It looked like they swiped the Glen Jenvey story from Bloggerheads without crediting it (unforgiveable really when the Ad Nauseum column makes so much play of calling out advertisers who thieve from Youtube). They did a parody of Steven Fry’s lift tweets that misunderstood the @ tags, and consequently totally overlooked the usefulness of Twitter as a tool for spreading information. As a media watchdog they look badly outpaced by the internet, the takedown of churnalism in Flat Earth News was more comprehensive than the Eye‘s fortnightly digs, and however doggedly they refuse to do a proper online version, the classified pages definitely look less packed than they used to.
I’m not cancelling my sub yet, but I’m only holding out until Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe becomes a rolling service. Last night’s show was purgingly funny and properly revelatory – especially the big finish about reporting mass murders. It’s sickening to see Dr Park Dietz’s comments juxtaposed with the news footage that explicitly ignores his advice. Don’t cut the story as a drama. Don’t cast the killer as an anti-hero. Don’t give blanket coverage to massacres… oh no, they already did.
The degree to which new reporting ignores its own role in making stories while asking “why?” is obscene: newspapers did exactly the same over the Bridgend suicides, grimly demanding an explanation for all the deaths while they made front-page heroes of the deceased and publicised the methods used. (“Look, all your friends are doing it, and we’ll even show you how!”) There’s actually a set of guidelines in place for reporting suicides that should prevent that sort of covert incitement – and good luck to you getting some compensation out of the PCC for the loss of a loved one. These stories are the definition of self-sustaining flat earth news, and you’d hope that when people are actually dying the media would notice that it’s doing something wrong.