Over the years professions change. Jobs adapt to the environment, to new technology, to smarter people. My job for instance is very different to how it was when I began 20 years ago, driven largely by the growth of the internet. I am sure most of us that started work in the previous century can relate to that.
One job, which has certainly changed over that period, is that of reporter or journalist. In the olden days, reporting was a skill, a dark art if you like. Sources were bought and paid for using many incentives as currency and reputations were built on ruthlessness, efficiency and above all, being right. Journalists have never been viewed as noble in fact; spitting image pretty much nailed it when they portrayed tabloid journalists as pigs. However in general they reported facts (of course, there were exceptions, but by and large facts were king).
During the age of the internet, journalism has changed. There are many factors, which have contributed to that change. Mainly the dearth of information now available and the ease at which we can obtain it. I say information NOT fact. The internet and in particular twitter have given rise to “fake news”, it seems that something has to only be tweeted once (by anyone, not just a blue tick) for it to be taken as fact. A completely unsubstantiated comment will be cited by someone, somewhere to support that own individuals belief or agenda regardless of its factual accuracy.
It is frankly terrifying. The speed with which people are convicted via twitter is astonishing. Drunken holiday mistakes tweeted by a “friend” become life changing. I suspect there is a few of us who would not have progressed quite as far in life had Twitter and camera phones been available in the mid-90s!
In this new age of information, false or otherwise, we need a defender of facts. The method of journalism has very much changed as discussed, but the role of journalism should very much remain the same, if anything it is far more important now than it ever was back then. I want to be able to know that if I read something from a person employed by a news outlet that it is factually correct.
However, it is not. It is almost exclusively not correct. Where has that professional integrity gone? At what point did the role of a Times journalist move from reporting facts to the nation, to generating internet clicks for its paymaster? Is that why they all studied for so long? The standard is declining and declining fast.
Nowhere is this decline more evident than in sports reporting and in particular, football. I swear that the transfer window was introduced purely to make money for agents and media companies.
“Ex Arsenal star agrees new contract in shock transfer”.
You click it and read about some player you have never heard of who once was in the Arsenal academy who might sign for Luton Town (sorry Luton!). Pathetic. In my day, that sort of rubbish was known as Clubcall. A premium rate phone line, which used to churn out all sorts of rubbish. I remember the day Wenger signed for Arsenal, I rang Clubcall, and instead of hearing about Wenger, I was being told Arsenal were in talks to sign Alan Shearer. Ha.
However, Clubcall has now gone mainstream. Speculation and outright rubbish is now freely tweeted and reported on by previously “respected” journalists. A great example is yesterday and Arsene Wenger’s quotes on Sanchez. Headline “Arsenal to lose Ozil for free in the summer”. Wow I thought, completely ignoring what I have previously just written about, and clicked. Wenger’s quotes had been completely twisted and sensationalised. I mean it is not as if the video footage is freely available and we can see for ourselves that the headlines and tag lines are totally misleading! My favourite is when a writer will create a rubbish headline and then link the actual video so we can see with our own eyes that they are lying.
I do not want to pick on individual journalists, I am sure we all have our favourites. However, yesterday Charles Watts, who is a reporter on Arsenal for London, tweeted out without comment, the word for word transcript of Arsenal Wengers press conference. That is journalism. Right there. Give me the facts and I am okay with that. I am okay with making my own decisions and conclusions from what I read.
That does not pay bills though, generate clicks or gain retweets. It is tiresome. This Sanchez to Man City thing is a prime example. Will it happen? Who knows? I do not and I am certain no journalists know yet, it does not stop the spewing of rubbish from all corners of Fleet Street though.
I am bored of it. I am bored of the media. They offer nothing. I have not bought a newspaper in years or paid for any form of news media in a long time. I get my news from the TV or radio or from the various sources of factual websites that I have discovered over the last 20 years. Nevertheless, I still cannot avoid it. Twitter is an amazing tool but your own personal filter needs to be highly tuned otherwise you will go mad.
What is particularly sad is that I suspect that budding journalists who are now studying at University are being taught these “new skills”. Not writing skills, proof reading, copy compiling, source obtaining but how best to trigger, and audience into clicking a link.
Maybe as an Arsenal fan, I am particularly susceptible to this, as I doubt there is a group of people on earth who are easier to trigger. Maybe Trump fans, Brexiteers or the Westboro Baptist Church are close, but otherwise it’s a big gap to the next.
Will it change? I doubt it, in TV terms I think reporting has jumped the shark. We are never going to pay for it again, so the only way the industry can sustain itself is through clicks. Therefore, where once there was investigation and subterfuge there are now lies, lies and damn clickbait. I do not see it changing.
Have a great week.
40-something Surrey-based Gooner. Passionately supporting The Arsenal since the 80’s.