Thursday, December 08, 2011

Planting the flag

This is the British media at its worst. All national newspapers are guilty of it, but the British seem to have turned it into an art form.

It happens with most "foreign" stories. You might see a massive disaster in outer Timbuktu, with thousands killed. Amongst the casualties will be a lady teacher from Scunthorpe, so the Scunthorpe Gazette - or whatever – will devote its front page headline to "Scunthorpe Teacher Killed", with the ensuing story devoted to interviewing schoolchildren and colleagues.

This is called "planting the flag", or more prosaically, "putting a flag on it". In respect of EU stories which get the treatment in the nationals, Bruno Waterfield calls it "Londonisation". The editorial luvvies get hold of a Brussels story, search – sometimes desperately – for a London (i.e., Westminster) angle, and then major on that. On occasions, so artificial is the result that it is almost comedic.

So it is with this story. With great events afoot, The Boy is not centre-stage. In fact, he is a sad little figure on the periphery of a drama, the resolution of which could – without too much exaggeration – determine whether we still have a civilisation in a few years' time.

But the London Luvvies, trapped in their bubble, do not understand Brussels politics, know next to nothing of the fundamentals of the European Union and, in any event, see themselves as reporters of London "court" gossip. London is the centre of their universe. They have neither the aptitude to deal with, nor the interest in, "foreign" stories, so they Londonise them, staying within their comfort zone.

Their narrowness of scope is such that they could not even qualify as "little Englanders". "Little Londoners" might be closer, except that they are actually limited to the doings of the political classes, centred on Westminster. The greater world is a terrifying mystery to them. They get nose-bleeds if they travel north of Charing Cross.

Here, thus, we see the original copy generated by "Bruno Waterfield in Brussels", but it is then given the treatment by bubble-dweller James Kirkup, who gets the lead credit, preparing the story for (they think) the sensitive eyes of British readers.

What these fools do not understand that is that their obsession with Westminster politics is not universally shared. There is a huge constituency interested in news and events beyond the daily fare of court gossip that the media thinks suitable for them.

It is these people, in their droves, who are having to turn to other sources to find their news. For sure, they go to the gossip-mongers, partly for entertainment and partly to assess the mood of the bubble. But for information - and informed analysis - they have to go elsewhere.

There is, of course, room for both, side-by-side. But in modern newspapers, the designers and publishers have decided that we are no longer capable of reading sheets packed with information. It must be spaced out and copiously illustrated, by which means the contemporary Daily Telegraph offers less news content in its entirety than you could get off one page of a 1940s copy of The Guardian.

The shallow, narrow focus of the media – and especially newspapers - is one of the reasons why it is a failing industry. There is a market niche for entertainment, and they have occupied that to the detriment of most serious news coverage. Thus the media can no longer claim to be authoritative sources of information. They are just "noise".

Sadly, though, they cannot see it. In their own lunchtimes, they are the legends, the titans. And they still have enough of a like-minded following to bolster their egos and tell them how wonderful they all are. All of that insulates them from reality. But compared with their predecessors, they are a joke – a sick joke. There is no hiding that. You just have to look at the archives.