If you say so Nick

Trust is what we who earn our living from the media depend on, and any decline in trust is a cause for concern. The latest data from the Reuters Digital News Report shows a decline in trust in the UK media of 7%. In one YouGov survey, Wikipedia was held to be marginally more trustworthy than the BBC. So what’s the problem and what can be done about it?

It is due, I believe, to two main factors: the increased polarisation of our society and the increased use – particularly by the most committed and most partisan – of social media and alternatives to what they call the MSM, the mainstream media.

Of course, it could be just that competition is showing up the inadequacies of the incumbents….

16 comments on “If you say so Nick

  1. Wikipedia was held to be marginally more trustworthy than the BBC

    That sounds about right. They’re both pretty shoddy of course.

    Recently I was scanning the Wikipedia entry on India and found this astonishing line:

    The resulting Mughal Empire did not stamp out the local societies it came to rule, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices and diverse and inclusive ruling elites

    No mention of the tens of millions of Hindus (and others) slaughtered under Muslim rule.

  2. Well, when I can find out more about a story in the local paper from the comments underneath it (where they are allowed), it’s not hard to see why….

  3. Would this by any chance be the same Nick Robinson who, through his eagerness to ascend Gordon Brown’s alimentary tract, earned himself the sobriquet ‘Toenails’?

  4. I can’t remember where I found this but it’s worth repeating here:
    Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect

    Worth repeating from Michael Crichton
    “Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)
    Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward–reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story–and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
    That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.
    But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia”
    Except it’s evaporating.

  5. It is due, I believe, to two main factors: the increased polarisation of our society

    That will be the fault of all those “Tory scum”, I suppose.

  6. The problem with Nick’s position is that he thinks that the BBC needs to do something.

    What he was complaining about yesterday afternoon on the Media Show was the way that Corbyn-Cultists distrust a story on the BBC, because they prefer the news as seen from the inaccurate and partisan position of the loony fringe sites like the Canary.

    What’s the Beeb going to do? Repeat lies and falsheoods to appeal to cow-brained neo-communists? Or do one of the stupid “News about the news” filler articles that currently clog up the site?

    They could stick to the facts, I suppose…

  7. Much of the mainstream media has doubled-down on Cultural Marxism. It wasn’t always like this: Tomorrow’s World used to showcase a glorious Jetson’s-style future; nowadays it would just be a doom-mongering lecture about how eating one Big Mac will destroy the world.

  8. @ljh

    Very interesting. My first exposure to journalism came when I was 7. My brother, 11, when paddling in the local river, found an unexploded hand grenade. Cue major panic — police, Bomb Disposal Squad, etc.

    Now I was a horribly precocious little brat and could read fluently at that age. I was therefore intrigued by the account of all this in the local rag, which bore no more than a faint resemblance to what had happened, witnessed by myself. Even then I concluded that the rest of the editorial matter (never mind the ads) was equally unreliable, and that has been my opinion of the press ever since. Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus indeed. It may just be me, but I don’t like being lied to.

  9. Ljh,

    I don’t think it’s amnesia. It’s just that we assume they boobed in one small area. We didn’t realise they were boobing all over, but with the internet, we’re got that they were.

    I now spend a few minutes when I see a story doing some deeper reading. Those persecuted Muslims in Myanmar? Well, you might want to read up on Rohingya Insurgency.

  10. First of all, there is no real journalism being done anymore. Just attending press conferences is not the same thing. So the papers are filled with opinion pieces that characterise the people who don’t read their paper as either thick racist pricks or elite metropolitan intellectuals. Why would anyone trust the press? What news is written about is filtered through those obvious goggles. Everyone but journalists realise this.

  11. He makes some reasonable points, for instance:

    When I wrote a book a few years ago called Live from Downing Street, the theme that emerged was not bias – to this party or that, to right or left – but the slowness to challenge the conventional wisdom of the day. Most shockingly, Churchill’s pre-war warnings about the dangers of German rearmament were heard by radio listeners not in his own country but in the US. The BBC, influenced by the government, muzzled him.

    The way Churchill was handled is a powerful warning of the dangers of the BBC believing it is being balanced by silencing the voices of those who do not represent conventional wisdom. It is an answer to all those who complained that Nick Griffin – who is, let me stress, no modern-day Churchill – should never have been invited on to Question Time. It’s a riposte to Brexiters who fill my timeline with demands that we should not interview “that failed leader” Nick Clegg, to remainers who say the same about Nigel Farage, and to those who argue Nigel Lawson should never be interviewed about climate change. They should be challenged and if, as Lawson did on Today recently, they get their facts wrong we should say so. But they should not be silenced.

    But what he doesn’t do is take it to its logical conclusion. The BBC spends a lot of time and effort ensuring it is culturally diverse but how much effort does it put in to make sure it is ideologically diverse? How many of its editorial staff have come through somewhere like eg the Adam Smith Institute? What steps does it take to ensure that its news departments aren’t one giant group think?

    For more on this issue this Cato Daily Podcast on the problem within NPR is worth a listen.

  12. ‘It is due, I believe, to two main factors: the increased polarisation of our society and the increased use – particularly by the most committed and most partisan – of social media and alternatives to what they call the MSM, the mainstream media.’

    Polarization: Unity to the legacy press means, “You must go along with what we say.” No opposition is allowed.

    The slow death of the legacy press is due to CONTENT. They love to blame the internet, but that’s not their problem. Blaming the net keeps them from feeling guilt about killing their institutions.

  13. One of Robinson’s colleagues was on the box the other day, complaining about bloggers and suchlike being allowed to voice an opinion, when they haven’t the competence or authority of the MSM. It wasn’t so much he objected to alternative voices, but that he was outraged.

  14. I sort of agree with the social media point. Far too many articles are just regurgitated twitter feeds. I can get those from twitter without the spin.

    I don’t think that is what Nick meant though.

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