Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Whatever happened to news and comment?

Sometimes you find something that, in context, might not seem too strange, but when you step back and think about it, is genuinely odd. (Yes, that really is a ten foot copper eggcup in a late medieval church, by the way.) We are so used to the mixture of news and comment that passes for journalism these days that we don't object. But when you find a really egregious example, it can bring you up short.


I was forwarded something like that today: it was a virulently anti-London Olympics piece. Now, as it happens, I think having the Olympics in London is a plan that has never been properly validated, is likely to go seriously wrong, and will cost Londoners a lot of money. But that's an opinion. What really annoyed me about this supposed news item was the way it moved seemlessly from (carefully chosen) facts about the Barcelona, Athens etc. Games to pure conjecture about London and back again. The writer attributed motives to various parties including property developers and the mayor that not only were pure surmise, they were also deeply implausible. (I honestly don't believe Ken is the natural leader of a capitalist cabal: do you?) The fact that I agreed with the conclusion is irrelevant: it was a really bad piece of journalism.

A commentator needs to see the plays clearly before he or she can understand how the game works. Then they might suggest changes to the rules to meet their views of a what a better outcome is. But mixing the opinion in with the analysis is bound to lead to muddied thinking. So journalists, please, try to keep that old fashioned news/comment separation in place.

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