In the first part of this short trilogy on news, I argued that news is now part of the entertainment industry and made my point by bringing three witnesses to the stand: a Pulitzer winning journalist, Donald Trump and Meghan (Harry’s wife).
I now bring to the news stand that news is now a narrative.
The case for the prosecution
Consider this reporting of the same incidents. One side reports the BLM protests around the world as mainly peaceful, the other describes left wing arsonists destroying homes and businesses; one side describes the violent protests on the Capitol in the U.S. as an insurrection, the other as the right to protest against an unfair election process; one side describes the invasion of a U.K. football pitch at the hallowed ground of Manchester United as a rightful protest against capitalism and the greed of its American owners, the other as an illegal and dangerous group of cocaine sniffing activists with knives.
Same events but each with two different narratives, telling radically different news stories.
I bring NBC television newsreader Lester Holt to the stand and I quote part of his acceptance speech on receiving the highly prestigious and much coveted Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism:
“I think it’s become clearer that fairness is overrated,” Holt said. “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in. That the sun sets in the west is a fact. Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention. Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda, in fact, it’s just the opposite.”
Lester Holt – Image published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license – original author Gage Skidmore.
Objection! That the sun sets in the west is a scientifically proven ‘fact’, whereas the bipolar reporting of the BLM, Capitol and Manchester United protests is more arguably expressing opinions – or as the HRH the Queen of the United Kingdom so subtly put it, “some recollections may vary”.
A rather sad result of this, ably argued by Jennifer Risi, is a growing distrust of the Main Stream Media (MSM). As she says, facts are now almost assumed to be ‘fake until proven true’.
So, objection sustained? Your choice, but I think this shows that news as a narrative is here to stay. You can get an award for it!
Judith Ingleton-Beer is CEO of IBA International.