Thursday, November 8, 2012

Journalistic triumphalism

I don't normally do emotional rants, but I want to express my disgust and disdain for the self-righteous smugness and conformism of the mainstream media and, most recently, for the utterly unprofessional gloating and rejoicing on the part of some television journalists in the wake of the re-election of Barack Obama as US President.

I am not claiming that media bias played a significant role in the American presidential election. The extent of the opinion-forming power of the press is an empirical question which I haven't looked into. My guess is that journalists and commentators are less influential than they would like to think, and deeper forces are at work. [But more on this another time.]

With respect to the coverage of the US election, some public broadcasters in Europe and elsewhere were even worse, I suspect, than mainstream American media (which at least is American and so has a stake in the outcome).

To keep up my French, I watch news on France 2. They continually highlight progressive causes, and their coverage of the election was boringly predictable. (The predictability is a plus, however, from the pedagogical point of view, as my understanding of spoken French is not as good as it could be.)

But a Scottish-accented 'senior reporter' working for Australia's hard-left, publicly-funded SBS took my prize for naked bias and patent unprofessionalism. He went so far as to proclaim - as a (foreign) reporter, remember, not a commentator - that the Republican Party's continued dominance of the House of Representatives was not only bad for the Democratic Party but bad for America.

I looked him up on Wikipedia. Brian Thomson. Born and raised Kirkcaldy, Scotland. Majored in politics and history at Newcastle University, where he was Deputy President of the Newcastle University Union Society. Deputy, note. But he was the winner of the 2011 United Nations Association of Australia Peace Award. (God save us from Peace Prize winners.) I don't know that I've ever seen a reporter who appears to take himself quite as seriously as this character does.

In many ways, I regret the demise of pen, paper and print as communication media, but I console myself that changes in the media landscape - the shift away from print and, in particular, the fragmentation of the audience for the electronic media - mean that the current crop of smug, know-nothing, campaigning journalists face a very uncertain professional future.