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Devaluing journalism 6 June 2009

Posted by cooperatoby in Uncategorized.
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“A newspaper is a package of content – politics, sport, share prices, weather and so forth – which exists to attract eyeballs to advertisements.” So declaimed one of the Economist‘s leader writers on 16th May. This stunning piece of reductionism is almost enough to make one cancel one’s subscription! Yes, it’s very clever to turn the world upside down – in reality adverts exist only to support editorial – but it is self-contradictory as well as nihilistic. Ironically, the article to which it refers analyses the decline of the “department store” newspaper and the corresponding rise of the specialist news outlet, working on the principle that the smaller the audience for a story, the more willing its readers will be to pay for it. Surely this implies that readers have more choice – and it is certainly not advertisements they are seeking. These are a necessary evil, and people avoid them where possible, as the continuing primacy of the BBC shows. People need a meaning, and papers need a purpose and a set of principles. Readers are much more interested in the values that their reading matter embodies than the Economist admits. The Economist itself was founded to promote free trade, and it can’t do it by denying its own values.



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