You might imagine that the ‘product’ was doing something right – it was once, but today the readers are sadly disillusioned. The ‘Thunderer’ has become the ‘Whimperer’ in the hands of spiky haired young men in shiny suits who sit in Canary Wharf in front of a PC and type their name onto press association copy and PR handouts.
Where, the subscribers wail, are the Cassandra’s, the Keith Waterhouse’s; the drunken, corpulent, gap toothed, staggering, bleary eyed, bulbous nosed wrecks of the human species normally semi-sentient in the ‘Stab’ that miraculously metamorphosed into literary giants when gently led to a nearby phone and reminded that it was time to talk to the copy room, or face the wrath of the subbie. Forget the image of the Remington typewriter – that belonged to the world of the garret authors; the true reporters were sleuths, not grammatically correct, digitally nimble, typists.
There’s an old fashioned word. ‘Reporters’. For that is what they called themselves; not the new fangled ‘journalists’. They ‘reported’ the news from wherever the editor had had the sense of humour to send them. ‘Timbuktu’? They hired a camel. ‘Baghdad’? Then they hired a bodyguard – and an interpreter too. They didn’t sit in an expensive hotel suite in Beijing offering ‘live updates’ on the situation nearly 3,000 miles away in Kuala Lumpur.
The readers are revolting. Some old hands would say that readers have always been revolting – but keeping them happy is a necessary evil. Letters to The Times used to be pedant’s paradise, full of outraged complaints that a sub-species of a virtually extinct Chinese magnolia had been wrongly categorised as Tibetan magnolia – and the writer, who invariably held fifteen doctorates in neolithic Tibetan vegetation, ‘was sure’ the Editor would be appalled by such sloppiness.
It was The Times who sent William Russell out to share the Crimean trenches with the young men who gave their lives for us. He was described by one soldier as ‘a vulgar low Irishman, [who] sings a good song, drinks anyone’s brandy and water and smokes as many cigars as a Jolly Good Fellow. He is just the sort of chap to get information, particularly out of youngsters.’ Quite so. The perfect ‘reporter’. Without William Russell we would never have known of Florence Nightingale, nor the true horrors of war.
Now, we have ‘journalists’ who engender comments such as this:
Where was it “reported?” This is the problem with this particular journalist. He is depending on heresay…and in this case, as far as the story about the engine being active for 4 hours, has been proven to be false and in-accurate. At no time during any PC’s in Kuala Lumpur did the team suggest the engines were active for 4 hours…and today, after checking with the RR team who were in KL assisting in the investigations (they flew out there on sunday morning), they also concluded this was absolutely FALSE. Now, I ask you, WHERE is this reported and WHERE is it stated as a fact? I am so sick and tired of this nonsense…of lazy journalism. Won’t be renewing my subscription after this. This is just embarrassing journalism.
Fleet Street in the 60s might well have seceded from the British Isles; it was another land. Licensing laws abandoned for thirsty Smithfield workers conveniently adjacent, it was a place where its inhabitants felt honour bound to reinforce the concrete in their livers on an hourly basis. ‘Sober’ was an insult rarely afforded the opportunity to be aired. Yet we saluted those shambling drunks, we trusted them, we rewarded them by supporting their employers for allowing us the medieval pleasure of watching them poke the most ferocious hornet’s nests with a sharp stick. Hornet’s nests we would be afeard to approach, in places we had barely heard of.
For some reason Neville Thurlbeck’s robust response to questioning during the Leveson Inquiry comes to mind.
‘Did you give any thoughts to Article 8 rights (privacy) of the women? Yes or no?’
Thurlbeck: ‘There was no discussion of it.’
There wouldn’t have been, I suggest, because Neville himself was ‘old style’ Fleet Street; where ‘reporting the news’ was the agenda – not regurgitating the latest politically correct line. Did anyone give any thought to Florence Nightingale’s Article 8 rights? Should they have done?
I still subscribe to The Times – not because I trust its output as truthful reporting, but because it employs a marginally superior version of copy writer than its shameful competition. I can still enjoy the literary talent of Rod Liddle or A A Gill. That is the only reason.
This train of thought came about today because Moor Larkin reminded me of an e-mail in the Pollard report that I had all but forgotten. The Pollard report into another ‘great’ institution. The BBC. You may have a thousand and one reasons to condemn the BBC today – but once upon a time, like The Times, it was a world class entity with a reputation which still lingers today. An unwarranted reputation.
This was the e-mail trail:
Liz Gibbons, of the British Broadcasting Corporation, still touchingly confident that The Times ‘of all places’ dealt in ‘news’, not unsubstantiated tittle-tattle.
The BBC has since become an exhibit whose life force is publicly bleeding away in parallel with that of the ‘The Times’. Two proud old warriors of the battle to bring news to the public – now busy stabbing each other in the back.
The original ‘Stab in the Back’, watering hole of those long dead ‘reporters’ has become a Pizza parlour…
March 14, 2014 at 10:33 am
Agree with you on the sad decline Ms Raccoon. I continue to subscribe though for two reasons – expansive sports reporting and writing, and the crossword. The rest of the paper, when suitably folded, makes a solid backing for that latter item.
March 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm
I still subscribe mainly for the crossword and the obits but am sick of the telephone calls trying to persuade me to go digital!
March 14, 2014 at 10:42 am
I had a thought this morning: Civilization requires ethics, because it is unnatural, and therefore requires rules to hold off the dismantling effects of spontaneous humanity. Yet evolution requires no forethought, no design, hence no strategy, and so no ethics; and evolution has millions of years of proven precedence of success, for we are here to tell of it. Or are most of us here as a result of our unnatural civilization saving our immediate ancestors from pre-mature, and natural, death?
If the latter is true, then the subversives that have undermined our culture, are the harbingers of great death.
March 14, 2014 at 11:00 am
“For more than a century people have been building up a mystique about Broadmoor. The hospital authorities would not let anybody in, but one of my first acts was to open the doors to the intelligent media. We have nothing to hide.”
Jimmy Savile – 1989
I wonder who Jimmy would open the doors to nowadays? Russia Today or Al Jazeera perhaps. Not much scope in the UK anyhow.
March 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm
It’s always been a truism throughout my entire adult life that whenever you read an article on a subject you know something about in the Press you’d find some errors in it, and usually find it to be so unreliable as to be worthless. And since then it’s got worse. So I’m not so sure there was ever a golden period, just a less worse period than now. Or perhaps, in middle middle age I’m too young to have witnessed the golden period. These comments are of course about the national press, by the time you get to the regional papers, you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel. The journalists are very badly paid, and the main object of any article is to fill the space between the adverts. In fact it’s often difficult to distinguish the two.
The BBC of course is primnarily a Socialist propaganda machine which selects the news it will print/broadcast to further it’s own aims. I can recall when this wasn’t the case, or perhaps I was to naive to notice. Compare the difference in attitude in the reporting of the deaths of Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Benn. I don’t even want to think back to the coverage when St Nelson ascended to heaven.
March 14, 2014 at 7:58 pm
It’s always been a truism throughout my entire adult life that whenever you read an article on a subject you know something about in the Press you’d find some errors in it, and usually find it to be so unreliable as to be worthless.
That is certainly my experience. They are reasonably good on sports reports and seem to get cricket, golf, and soccer scores right, but on many issues they can only print what is in the public realm or press releases , and often fail to get the real story at all.
A minor example that often annoys me is that a newspaper article that mentions any kind of drug or medication invariably spells the name wrongly (steriods for steroids is a common one), presumably because electronic dictionaries don’t contain these words and they can’t be bothered to refer to medical or pharmacology reference sources, so they just approximate to what they think the name of the drug sounds like.
March 15, 2014 at 4:52 am
“…by the time you get to the regional papers, you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel.”
As can often be deduced by reading the comments section of an online local newspaper (where it has such).
March 14, 2014 at 5:06 pm
XX “Forgive Us Our Press Passes”.XX
Only “God” and slimey liberals “forgive.”
Real people will REMEMBER how one of their mates was killed in Nortern Irelans bacause his oppo had to give up his place in the carrier to one of these scum.
March 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm
Ouch! I often think of that sort of thing when I see ‘correspondents’ in hard hats in the middle of some disaster zone – how much food could have gone in the place that fat git was occupying? I had never thought about people actually getting killed because they had taken a place. You are right to be angry.
March 14, 2014 at 5:51 pm
I can recall feeling slightly infuriated back when tidal waves were the news of the day. Some officious TV correspondent would be standing in the chaos, presumably having arrived on a motorbike straight from the airport with his video camera, berating the authorities for their failure to have arrived on the non-existent roads, towing their forty-foot containers full of relief materiel that they had had no idea they’d need the day before, and their inept failure to have rebuilt the town before breakfast. These fellows really can be quite insufferable. Another reason not to watch TV any longer. Don’t feed the vermin.
March 14, 2014 at 8:02 pm
I stopped watching TV almost 10 years ago. Best thing I ever did, other than stopping smoking in 1984. If you allow TV to pollute your mind, even if you use filters, some of the crap will stick so better not to watch at all. However I still listen to a lot of radio, so perhaps not completely immune.
March 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm
GMPG* team. Trained together their whole army life. Knew each other better than their own wives.
Then, one of these press scum got a place in the pig, and the Gimpy man had to work with a “new-comer.”
PERFECTLY good soldier, but not a “TEAM.”
I blame the brass. They should NEVER have seperated them.
* General purpose machine gun. (Those you see on T.V with a big bugger of a machine-gun, and another carrying the ammo. In action, Shooter and spotter.)
March 14, 2014 at 9:44 pm
I often think of that sort of thing when I see ‘correspondents’ in hard hats in the middle of some disaster zone…
This is so true. When I was in Haiti a few days after the 2010 earthquake, Anderson Cooper from CNN was everywhere riding around with his crew on the back of a brown pick up truck and posing in front of the most picturesque vistas of death and distruction, but all CNN’s reporting was about whether Haitians would riot and the need to send in UN troops, when the real story should have been that Haitians were doing an amazing job of getting on with their lives with dignity and patience and that troops were not needed at all.
March 14, 2014 at 6:11 pm
Sorry GPMG….. My computer finger is dyslexic…
March 14, 2014 at 7:02 pm
Couldn’t agree more, I used to subscribe to the Times but no more. In fact apart from the odd article newspapers are a waste of money. Nothing has brought it home to me so much as the way the Savile case has been ‘reported’ one I don’t believe anything any more.
March 14, 2014 at 11:32 pm
Agree Carol42 —since sniffing that the Savile debacle was less than Kosher and finding the Racoon Arms as a result I have bought just one copy of a Newspaper —the Telegraph this week to read the opening paragraphs on the front page that Libya was not responsible for the Lockerbie bombing but Iran —all rather contrary to the MSM take on Lockerbie for the last 30 years—I didn’t trouble with the rest of it and it went straight to line the litter trays for my kitties.
March 15, 2014 at 12:40 am
Lucky you if your cats settle for newspaper! Mine like the expensive ‘Best Cat Litter in the World’ well this does lighten the conversation a bit. Glad you found Anna though.
March 14, 2014 at 9:30 pm
Liz Gibbons’ email of 2nd Jan.
One header, two sentences and three naming mistakes.
BBC standards have plummeted.
March 15, 2014 at 1:21 am
I remember watching young cubs like Dan Rather reporting from the front lines of Viet Nam. Those were the days of real reporting. He was able to jump military transport because they believed he was getting the real story back to the US – and he was. Those guys got the war stopped ultimately.
These guys nowadays are panty-waists or glory-hunters or their editors suck.
(Ahem, Carol42, I believe that would be The World’s Best Cat Litter! Made from corn.)
I’m trying a new one right now – not flushable, but keeps the odor down to a real minimum!
March 15, 2014 at 2:41 am
Must say despite the cost it is great car litter and does last longer than cheaper kinds. This is much more interesting than today’s newspapers! That’s what we think about them, talking about cat litter is more important.
March 15, 2014 at 9:42 am
*eagerly awaits the Daily Xenophobe’s headline that using newspaper as cat litter can cause (studies have shown) feline rectal cancer*
March 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm
@Carol 42 & @ Sally Stevens —my flippant remark as to the best uses for UK broadsheet newspapers has sparked interest. My kitties demand their litter tray lined with a broadsheet (ironed by the butler coz they don’t like newsprint on their paws) then a pine scented wood base main layer and a sprinkling of fullers earth.
March 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm
I shop at Waitrose because…..
….Jessica’s Ashera just won’t use The Times.
March 15, 2014 at 1:35 am
It’s so much worse across the pond in America. Too many of our journalists flit back and forth between working for politicians and working for news agencies. President Obama’s press secretary came from Time and CNN. Rumors currently swirl that he may return to the civilian sector soon. Above and beyond this conflict of interest, our journalists suffer from a chronic groupthink mentality where few even dare venture out and ask probing questions. The internet, while providing so many unique ways for people to share information, created a cut and paste generation, where most of copy in our newspapers and on TV is borrowed rather than information a reporter actually went out and followed leads, developed sources and sought out information. When a “big” story breaks our cable news channels send out their big name “reporters” to set up a lawn chair near the scene of the story, but their focus centers on lining up the requisite subject matter “experts” for the story , not searching for the facts. Our attention span over here, being extremely short, allows for these stories to fade into oblivion quickly. Your Uk-Raine piece provided a more substantive and timely background on Julia Tymoschenko than I had read previously come across. Bravo, Anna, your “reporting” harkens back to that older tradition you remember and maybe blogs will replace the old news outlets, as the source where the intrepid reporting takes place.