The musings of Mr Monkeysized

What next for journalism after Egypt? by nicholaswalton
February 2, 2011, 17:01
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

A friend of mine wryly commented on his Facebook feed that the 1 million gathering in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were actually foreign journalists. Well, that’s what it’s seemed like.  And, oddly enough, much (but not all) of the journalism has been forgettable or regrettable.

If there is one area where rolling TV news earns its corn, it’s in the cockpit seat that it gives those watching a real, visceral sense of things unfolding in front of their eyes. But what is it that is unfolding? Again, rolling TV news has the advantage of the pictures masking the words of witless gobshites that tend to accompany the pics. Elsewhere, we’re left with distraction-free witless gobshites. And many of them are journalists.

I listened to a BBC Radio Four podcast that had a report direct from Tahrir Square – devoid of a cue (thanks to some idiotic decision by somebody at Today just to throw us straight into every interview without an introduction or context) I took the speaker to be a pundit, telling us his views on what was going on. He wasn’t – he was the BBC’s ‘Middle East Editor’, Jeremy Bowen. So why on earth was he telling us his views and predictions, as opposed to giving us solid background information to give us the context to understand these complex and quickly-changing events? As if to prove that two wrongs made a right, they then wheeled in the portentious John Simpson – ‘So are you in the square, John?’ ‘No, I’m in a hotel because I have to make a phone call.’

The Onion today posted a story about a high school journalist who was actually the most professional journalist in the US – “I triple-check my facts and then take out anything that looks like an opinion from me—just basic journalism stuff, really”, she said.

And here is something from Stephen M Walt on Foreign Policy, which every journalist should read before they go on air and turn into a slobbering, witless gobshite:

If history is any guide (and it is, albeit a rather fickle and ambiguous one), we are still in the early stages. The French revolution went through a series of distinct phases for more than a decade (accelerated, to be sure, by war), before Bonaparte’s seizure of power. The Russian Revolution began with the March 1917 uprisings, followed by the Bolshevik coup in October and then a civil war. The Islamic republic of Iran did not leap full-blown from the brow of the Ayatollah Khomeini, but took several years to assume its basic form. Even the United States was a work-in-progress for years after victory in the revolutionary war. (Remember the Articles of Confederation, and the debate over the Constitution?).  

In short, history cautions that we have no clear idea what form a post-Mubarak government in Egypt will take, and there’s a lot of contingency at work here. I have my hunches and hopes, but nobody can be really confident about their forecasts at this stage.

So, journalists, please remember this and stop trying to be clever.


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