The musings of Mr Monkeysized

What next for journalism after Egypt? by nicholaswalton
February 2, 2011, 17:01
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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.

Get your kids into prostitution rather than journalism by monkeysized
June 15, 2010, 09:57
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I listened to a podcast from The Economist on the way to work today. The starting line was

“The notion of thinking of journalism as something you go into at age 21 or even at age 18 as used to be, and something you retire from in your sixties, I think that is no longer a wise way of thinking about it.”

It was a piece about the future of journalism. When inside the Big Corporation I felt it easy to criticise other industries for failing to reform – journalism’s own troubles made me feel mildly queasy in a slightly hidden way. It didn’t affect me in my cast-iron job. But then I jumped ship and waved goodbye to my large pay off to do so. I didn’t want to be that frog sitting still in the water as it comes to the boil. It’s one of the few brave things that I’ve ever done, and my own individual attempt to avoid being Monkeysized.

I have my own thoughts about the future of journalism now. I’m shocked at how well prepared journalists are for the outside world, but also at the denial that most journalists have about being forced to show it. One of the two men on the Economist’s pod said he’d prefer it if it his kids stayed well clear of it.

I put the pod up on my Facebook page. My journalistic friends seem to be avoiding it – they’re instead going for the Onion report that I put up about Football:

“Deep down soccer’s about a bunch of guys running around, not touching a polka-dot ball with their hands. It shouldn’t have to hide how gay it is.”

Roll up for Economic punditry by monkeysized

To chance my arm at economic punditry, I have a monkeysizer’s comment about the deal reached by EU finance ministers last night.

The problem they have is that they do not have the vision to tackle the fundamental underlying problems that they face. The FTSE and other financial indices are up at the news that the various nuts and bolts to tackle the debt funding problems faced by European economies has been nailed in place. In fact it’s value is higher than I’d imagined was possible, given the inability of most governments (in particular those in trouble and those hypnotised by a political imperative rather than rational and evolving interests) to think beyond their nostril hair.

But what has been agreed, as suggested by the magnificent Stephanie Flanders, tackles the symptoms and not the causes of the crisis. Where is the real fix to European economies going to come from? From absurd faith in ludicrous schemes like the Lisbon Agenda and 20:20? Hell no. From budgetary discipline now that we’re deep into an exercise in moral hazard? Hmmm.

The failure to see the big picture is unedifying among these leaders. They are the proverbial frogs in water on the stove. The water is heating up and they refuse to clamber onto the stone. They have no idea that they need to understand monkeysizing.