News confirms its place as part of the entertainment industry

I often say that there is so much news about now that there isn’t any. The vast number of media channels and their huge capacity has meant that news is just not what it used to be. In consumer-speak, it’s now more than ever a part of the entertainment industry.

All these new delivery mechanisms mean that there is now so much surplus capacity for the dissemination of news that it seems that anything goes – and that often means the checks and balances. I can still hear my editor screaming at me ‘where is your supporting evidence?’ Nowadays it seems, there’s no time to ask the tricky questions. (How I love our business of B2B PR when news is when it appears ‘in ink’, not when it happens!)

I bring to the stand three witnesses.

First, a few years back now, we have award-winning journalist Claas Relotius on the top German newspaper Der Spiegel who was able to make up sensation stories for years and never get found out.  

Over seven years he “made up stories and invented protagonists” that appeared in its print and online editions for Der Spiegel’s 6.5 million readers. He won awards for his investigative journalism, including CNN Journalist of the Year in 2014, was Germany’s Reporterpreis (Reporter of the Year) for his story about a young Syrian boy, which the jurors praised for its “lightness, poetry and relevance”. His stories were always on message for high readership, ranging from a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo Bay to one about the American football star Colin Kaepernick.

Next I bring to the stand Donald Trump – arch protagonist of fake news and arch manufacturer of the self same product. I won’t go into the details – we had four years of it and now he has gone. In his final days he lost one of his delivery mechanisms – Twitter – but the news channels were all over him – forget the checks and balances. He wanted sensationalism, they gave it to him, supporters and arch haters alike lapped it up.

CNN thrived on the Trump presidency but has seen ratings plummet since he left the White House.

According to a report on Nielsen Media Research, CNN lost 36% of its primetime viewers since January 21. The primetime numbers are abysmal among CNN’s key target age group – those aged 25 to 54. CNN lost 58%. CNN’s ratings aren’t faring much better during daytime hours. The network saw the number of daytime viewers drop by 34% in the period between the election and Inauguration.

Biden won’t do it for them – he just isn’t up to it.

And my final witness is made up of three: Oprah, Meghan and Harry – no family names required here. Two hours of assertions – no facts required. The epitome of entertainment – at its very best or worst depending on where you stand on the issue.

The media is supposed to be a check and balance but who checks and balances the media? I wrote a blog many years ago observing the power of personalities and celebrities – when DJs were more famous than the music they play on their show, when the models were more famous than the designers of the clothes they wear, actors more famous than the films they are in, interviewers more famous than the people they are interviewing.

Then suddenly their opinion matters more than the people they are representing. Hey ho, unlike trade and tech where news standards still apply, consumer media have become part of the entertainment world.

Judith Ingleton-Beer is CEO of IBA International.

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