What that awful Gawker Media tells us about the rest of the media

They\’re better at it basically.

Among the phenomena he examined were the relentless trivialisation implicit in soundbite politics, the obsessive insistence that every political issue – no matter how complex – has only two sides and the tendency to treat every political controversy as if it were a football game and every election a horse race. But, en passant, Fallows also highlighted an equally disturbing trend – towards market-driven news: that is, news agendas that are driven not by some professional assessment of what\’s important and relevant, but by research into what viewers like and respond to. Put crudely, such an approach leads to news programming that plays down politics and economics in favour of coverage of crime, celebrity and sport. News-U-Like, as it were.

For, you see, every media organisation has always done this. No, they don\’t go off and persuade peeps of the nobility and purity of certain ideas or actions that the media producers independently determine. Rather, they try to find out what people are already thinking and thus chase those prejudices.

Yes, this really does mean that there are millions who think the Daily Mail way.

But it also means that organisations like The Guardian are chasing a certain segment of the population who think in a certain way. And that\’s where there can be a certain amusement: what is it that the group of people The G is chasing seem to believe? Something we might be able to divine from what the pieces say, the prejudices that the articles seem to be pandering to?

And in that paragraph we can see at least some of it. The idea that an organisation might exist to produce what the punters want rather than what the producers might want to produce: good grief, what horrors! Why, it\’s almost common, like being in trade!

Which, when you think about it, is the rather hysterical reaction of many Guardianistas to such ideas. Rather an English, upper middle class reaction too, almost Edwardian in fact. We must tell the proles what is good for them, insist upon it in fact. And certainly not think about money or profits, that\’s just grubby. And The Guardian\’s chosen audience, the ones they temper the paper to appeal to, are those who think that way.

Which leads us to an interesting conclusion: the very way they write the paper shows that they understand this entirely. But the trick only works if they can claim to be doing this from some higher motive rather than doing what absolutely everyone has always done: pander to hte prejudices of some portion of the population and thereby profit.

8 thoughts on “What that awful Gawker Media tells us about the rest of the media”

  1. The irony being that Guardian readers are more likely to be ‘newspaper-status conscious’ than, say, readers of the Daily Mail. There’s an ostentatious aspect, a hint of role-play. Buying a copy of the Guardian, or leaving one on show, is often a self-conscious marker of status in ways that buying the Mail or Times would by and large not be. Which is to say, the Guardian is often bought by people who wish to be seen as Guardian readers – as the kind of people who have The Views One Ought To Have.

  2. Personally I regard the daily Mail asthe nearest Britain has to a real newspaper. All the others seem to get their news by rewriting press releases from the “great & good” government sources for from enterainer’s agents. The mail actually find stories not spoonfed to them.

  3. It’s not that simple, though, is it. I mean, every News Corp paper cheered on the Iraq War. Don’t you think that says something about Rupert Murdoch or were they just echoing the views of their readership?

  4. As far as you go, Tim, so good. But who or what shapes the desire for dumb-downed media, including (imo) The Guardian?…Many factors surely, but our deeply deficient education system is one of them…

    The role of the public sector should be, I believe, to provide what the private sector cannot or will not, ceteris paribus.

    At present in the UK media, we have the BBC, which has joined the ‘race to the bottom’ in pursuit of ratings. On current evidence, perhaps we need a public service broadcaster to maintain some standards, but then, given that it almost slavishly follows The Guardian line, the BBC is simply NOT it!

  5. But given that this is the case (and manifestly it is, despite the chap above me thinking the Daily Mail’s stories have anything to do with reality) surely what we have is a case of false advertising? After all, anything that repackages news in such a way as to play up to the prejudices of its demographic isn’t a newspaper per se, more a news comic.

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