Newswipe, episode 1 on iPlayer (until 1 April 2009)

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.

4 thoughts on “Burned

  1. Enjoyed that Sarah – I am heartily fed up of the ‘news’ focussing almost pruriently on what might happen, instead of giving us unbiased insight into what has happened, and, yes, when you see,as CB demonstrated, their arrant hypocrisy – well it fair makes you long for old Reggie Bosanquet’s gentle ways. The Anglo-american bias irritates too and I watch EMTV’s roundup, for news that actually includes other nations (Yes I know – I was surprised to find out there WERE other nations!!)
    As for PE’s failure to grasp the Wonderweb nettle, just look at Hislop’s twittering………..

  2. Private Eye is one of the few of the “Dead Tree Press” which actually does investigative journalism. It also has the benefit of an exceedingly long memory.

    However, it is flagging a little. It can’t keep up with the 24 hour, minute by minute tweets that many people clamour for.

    And I think this is a good thing. Mostly.

    Articles are well researched, well written, well edited and – more or less – accurate. That they’re a week or so “late” and don’t do “breaking news” is a strength. They get to take a slightly longer term view. They’re not chasing a headline.

    If they were to launch today, they’d *have* to be a blog. But they have a largish readership who are willing to pay a few quid a year. Something that most blogs, I think, would love. They also cover a wide range of issues, whereas most blogs are monomaniacal.

    The only thing I’d change is their web strategy. Have issues from previous years in a searchable database. Maybe they could even charge for it. Their articles are a valuable resource.

    As for the quality of the cartoons and the articles… They’re up and down all the time. Take a look at some of the issues from the last 30 odd years – some are hit, some are miss. I suspect any blog going for a similar period would have the same problem.

  3. good luck with your private eye membership, sad to say i gave up on it after their stance on the mmr hoax (although if they’ve ever made a proper attempt to rectify that i’d like to know, and might give them another chance).

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