SubScribe: Have newspapers got nastier? Google+

Friday 3 February 2017

Have newspapers got nastier?

We've always been below the salt, required to use the tradesmen's entrance. Journalists are proud to see their work as a trade rather than a profession. But people don't trust us. Survey after survey tells us that we are ranked down with estate agents and politicians in public esteem, while doctors and teachers soar away at the top.
Actually, nearly all of us work pretty hard at what we do and with the best of intentions. Few of us achieve the kudos that comes with being a war correspondent or a renowned investigative journalist, but from local paper to national broadcaster, thousands do their best to tell people what those in power are up to.
It's a matter of great regret that this blog has so frequently found itself returning to the ugly side of our industry, to biased and prejudicial reporting - particularly of immigration. It used to be a pleasure to open the papers in the morning, now it is a painful duty. There is so much shoutiness, so many of them seem so angry about everything.
Is this new? Or was the nastiness always there? Am I noticing it now because it has got worse or because I was blind when I was swept up in the wonderful busy-ness of helping to put together a newspaper night after night?
If it has got worse, why? Because we live in a less deferential society? Because Twitter and BTL comments have made aggressive language acceptable, even the norm, in the public conversation? Because there is more to be nasty about?
And when did it start? With Thatcher? Earlier than that? After Leveson? Or later than that?
And, finally, does it matter? What is the impact on society - and journalism - of an aggressive Press. Does it help to "hold the powerful to account"? Or does it foster divisiveness? Does anger sell papers - or is it a factor in declining circulations?
SubScribe would love to know what you think. I know those pop-up "we'd love to get your feedback" surveys are a pain in the neck, but please, on this occasion, could you take a few minutes to share your thoughts on this short  questionnaire. Thank you.

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  1. Hi Liz, as you know, I cheer-led for Subscribe from the beginning, because I believe(d) it is an honest and un-sentimental look at what makes journalism tick. But now the clock is winding down, and might well have stopped in my lifetime (and I'm well into the final quarter of that, sadly).

    If newspapers are getting nastier it's because they're fighting for survival, never a pretty sight. The 'journalists' of today are not the journalists I once knew. Purveyors of clickbait, false news, political and ideological bias, ego-driven and often misguided—and, as you point out, bottom of the public-esteem register.

    But nastier? No. More self-obsessed, insular and agenda-driven, very possibly, but (Guardian and News International aside) above all they are profit-driven businesses—the profit that pays everyone's wages and pensions. And any business is likely to fight tooth and nail when the bottom line is breached.

  2. Newspapers are getting nastier because to a considerable extent they reflect the society they are part of; and society has been getting nastier, particularly in the past year.