Reporting Scotland, Reporting Soundbites
We talked recently about how Fake News is on the rise partly because the mainstream news is failing to serve any useful purpose.
If political coverage isn’t blatantly and outrageously biased, it tends to be infantilised, superficial and, most importantly, it consistently fails to educate people with hard facts.
Instead of holding power to account, reporters tend to lazily report claims and counterclaims, leaving the audience more confused about the world than they would be if they hadn’t turned on the news in the first place.
I don’t normally watch Reporting Scotland for these reasons but I did happen to catch it last night and there was a prime example of this phenomenon.
Jackie Bird announced to the nation that the Scottish Government has CLAIMED that,
Welfare reforms could result in 30,000 disabled people in Scotland being worse off, however, the UK government says that figure is missleading.
Whether or not the Scottish or UK government is correct is a serious question. The average news watcher probably doesn’t have the time to research a complex issue like this on their own but surely it is a journalists job to do so?
Health and social affairs correspondent Shelley Jofre was wheeled out to shed some light on the situation.
She basically padded out the story. She told the nation that disabled people are being moved onto a new scheme called Personal Independence Payments(PIP). The Scottish Government has released a report that shows that 45% of people will be better off and 44% of people will be worse off or lose benefits altogether. Shelley says the UK government doesn’t recognise this figure. She lets us know that Scottish Labour(unsurprisingly) blames the SNP and that the Scottish Conservatives have nothing whatsoever to say.
That’s the end of the report. Shelley’s investigations have amounted to her summarising some Spin Doctor’s press releases.
The public is no better informed than they were before as to the impact of PIPs on the disabled.
Would it have been too much to ask for Shelley Jofre to spend her day reading the actual report in question, contacting a few experts in the field for their opinion, and trying to analyse how accurate the original claim is?
If BBC Scotland actually investigated every political issue instead of just reporting the spin, then maybe it would see its abysmal trust ratings go up.
Instead, journalists consistently fail at their one key role, which is to hold the actions and claims of the establishment to account. All the BBC has achieved in this report is to burn some time and muddy the waters. It is of no help to public understanding, and it is of no help to the many disabled people who may or may not be disadvantaged by such changes.
It doesn’t take Noam Chomsky to deduce that democracy is damaged when the Fourth Estate is diluted to just parroting political propaganda. This is especially true when it comes to big issues like the 2014 independence referendum when most political parties were on one side of the debate.
In the PIPs example above, the public remains ignorant as to the truth, but at least both sides of the story have been aired.
In a situation like the indyref, in which establishment support is heavily skewed, there are far more press-releases and soundbites on one side. So, if reporters only report the soundbites without investigating the merit of each one, they are not only complicit in muddying the water. Over time this approach actively portrays one side in a better light regardless of the strength of that side’s position.
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