I’m aware that I’m being shown up by my fellow Rounders, but I intend to catch up with a mighty burst of Raw Noting this weekend.
In the meantime, I’d just like to drizzle some half finished thoughts onto your screen.
Mostly, what started out as a bit of a lark has ended up being a bit more serious. The more we read, the more we realised that we hadn’t noticed exactly how poorly our papers had been faring. Copernicus described them as ‘mostly advotainment’.
This might be a little harsh, but there’s no question that examining the sources for stories, and particularly the news stories, it becomes clear that newspapers are mostly printing stories that require little or no effort.
Some of these stories picked up off the floor are worthwhile in themselves. After all, court reports and Dail/ Council or Seanad Reports can provide real interest. But they oughtn’t be relied on in as a replacement for actual journalism. Active, thinking journalism will take the raw, undigested facts in a court report and find out the story behind the story- give readers the context. Tell us how we ended up in this situation. Back that explanation up with facts drawn from reliable sources.
Crime reports don’t interest me because they never address the fundamental causes of the stories. If there’s nothing more to report than Person A has done a terrible thing, what value is that to the rest of us? We can’t draw any conclusions from it, or try to prevent other people from ending up like Person A.
There may be more to some stories- the spate of ‘Isn’t Limerick awful’ stories over our weekend of reading did sometimes allude to some efforts being made to focus on what the root causes of a localised break-down in order might be. But too often the sensation of violence pushed the broader context of an individual crime out of the way.
In other areas of reporting, the reliance on stories being placed in a journalist’s lap is having a corrosive effect on public discourse. If Press Releases, Press Conferences and Briefings are the methods journalists rely on to get the news they pass on to us, then their readers will never learn anything that those who can afford to provide these set pieces do not want known. Journalism must be more than stenography.
Fergal made reference to the ideal of the Fourth Estate, as a guardian of the rights of the general public. Unfortunately, Irish newspapers have strayed far from this vital role to become the mouthpiece of those who can afford to supply them with words.