Bundling content: “Will this do?” “Not really, but it will have to.”

There are many reasons to like the work of Alex Massie not least of these are his refreshing honesty. Here he is on the intractable necessity of filling a daily newspaper:

…there are many pages to fill (one reason why newspapers might be better if they were slimmer) and you’ve got to fill them with something. Every day. If that means coming up with some nonsense or repackaging a press release as “news” then so be it. It’s true, and unfortunate, that doing so ruins your credibility with anyone who actually knows anything about the subject under discussion and that this leads people to question the accuracy of reporting on matters about which the poor, gentle reader knows little and that this in turn undermines the credibility and authority a proper newspaper needs and, slowly but certainly, reduces the incentive to actually purchase the inky rag but time is short, deadlines are unyielding and an empty page looks very silly indeed.

It put me in mind of this from Onora O’Neill:

We have, as it were, a cultural assumption that suspicion is a better, more prudent attitude than credulity. That attitude itself suggests a failure to think about the costs of suspicion.

The suspicion has always been there, but it could only rarely be voiced in such a way that would universalise the problem. With Twitter and smartphone in hand the generalist (journalist) is more vulnerable than ever to correction from the specialist reader.

, ,

  • joeCanuck

    New verb courtesy Mick – universalise.

  • Mick Fealty
  • joeCanuck

    Bah, Mick. There was me trying to credit you and you refused the honour.

  • “repackaging a press release as “news” then so be it”

    Some times they’re not even repackaged. Should such press releases be labelled in a manner similar to adverts so that unsuspecting readers would know the score?

    “suspicion is a better, more prudent attitude than credulity.”

    Credulity could hardly be described as a prudent attitude. A little prudence, a soupçon of suspicion, could go a long way to reducing the costs of credulity.