The news is reported via tropes; predictable assemblages of assumptions, notions, images and characters that define what the subject is, what related events mean and what is (and isn’t) judged meaningful - i.e. newsworthy – and relevant.
Here’s an example; “casino banking” - cue video of a big office filled with 20 to 40 something men sat in front of multiple computer screens staring at numbers, cut to canary wharf office blocks, some reportage about bonuses complete with masterbatory images of luxery goods finished with some chat about risk peppered with acronyms you don’t understand.
Or try “car manufacturing” – cut to the junior minister for widget exports being very serious about something whilst stood on a pavement outside an office. Now change to a photo of a production line on the left hand side with some animated graphs swiggling on the right before introducing some vox pop interviews with ordinary blerks walking out of a factory. Is the news good or bad? Who knows because what’s next is a business correspondent stuck in front of a graph to say something terribly portentous in a serious voice.
What’s fascinating isn’t the extent to which the above bunch of bollocks is still so resolutely in place despite the internet (and The Day Today), rather it’s the extent to which all those producing it seem unaware as to why.
The usual starting point here is another trope, this one being “why are newspapers still so influential despite the downturn in their circulation and the rise of alternative media?”. Except this time, no, this isn’t a cue for yet another predictable discussion, the reason being the mainstream media can best be characterised as an aggressive daisy chain that periodically stops for a circle jerk before reverting to type. Here’s why.
Newspaper and TV journalists move between the two media on a regular basis. Newspaper and TV journalists pay attention to the media they currently and used to work in. Newspaper and TV journalists accord some value to what they do.
Politicians (which can include newspaper and TV journalists) read the papers and watch the telly. These are things they know and understand. These are also the things newspaper and TV journalists know. D’ya see the origins of my daisy chain and circle jerk references now? Good.
This is a bad thing; there is an effectively institutionalized means of transmitting the prejudices – or tropes - of one group to the other and in the process excluding outsiders however significant what they’re saying might actually be – like, are you a TV journalist? No, Newspaper? No. Politician? No. Then fuck off.
Or to give a practical example, Allister Heath is a right wing fool *, but he’s also a newspaper editor; cue the BBC regularly getting him on the telly for late night adult debates and actually describing him as a serious thinker. By contrast, yer man Simon Wren-Lewis (better described as Britain’s terribly, terribly polite and Oxbridge Paul Krugman) simply blogs. Simon ain’t on the BBC much, which is a pity cos he’s a damn sight more credible than Allister the fool.
We lose out because of this media daisy chain (which is essentially immune to circulation numbers i.e. that’s not the fricking issue). We lose out because people who know what they are talking about are ignored in favour of people who are known (by the right people) and who buy into the existing tropes as to what is news. Just saying **
* in the interest of (spurious) objectivity, Will Hutton is marginally less dumb, but still an equivalent leftie muppet.
** - read Antonio Gramsci on hegemony as well is all I'm saying.