Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The (UK) "Not Independent"


One of Adolf's favourite newspapers is embroiled in a bit of a scandal.
Last week, the (UK) Independent published what it called '10 Myths about the EU Treaty.'
Not only did the splash cover the front page, but some of the inside pages too. Quite an exclusive!
But what the paper didn't tell anyone was who was its source for such shocking revelations.
Well, a good journalist never reveals its sources, but have a guess who was the source? How much investigation did the paper undertake for its European Constitution splash that day?
It turns out the Independent simply used a Foreign Office Press briefing, tweaked it a little, but effectively quoted it verbatim.
The Open Europe group noted the similarities between the government document and what the paper wrote and the uproar has started, fuelled by Independent editor Simon Kellner denying anything wrong, claiming he 'independenty' verified the information.
The matter is being covered by the blogs, including those from mainstream outlets like the Telegraph and the Spectator, who broke the story on its Coffee House blog, and the Guardian, with top blogger Guido Fawkes taking a particular interest.
Guido raises a few serious issues, which are worth debating here.
Don't Independent readers deserve to know how much of Independent 'news' is in fact a government press release, adding it should come with a government-ticked logo?
The Spectator's Melanie Phillips also notes how the Independent has now just become an outlet for government propaganda, just as Pravda was in former Soviet times.
And wouldn't heads roll in America, for example, if any journalist or media outlet found itself charged with such plagiarism.
Indeed, what might people say if a newspaper similarly ran verbatim, without criticisim, skepticism or much alteration, a government report on the Iraq war, Guido also notes.
As for me, I recall the launch of the Independent in the 1980s with its high ideals and in those days it wasn't a bad paper. It truly was Independent and it was refreshing to see a diversity of viewpoints within it. But alas it has since degenerated more into a 'viewspaper' rather than a newspaper, with an anti-war liberal stance that often out-lefts the Guardian. I cannot take it seriously any more.
Sadly, for us Kiwis, The Independent is owned by Irish baked beans tycoon and former rugby player Tony O'Reilly, whose business interests extend to the New Zealand Herald, so Granny often relies on the Independent for some of its overseas copy.
I hope the Herald subs realise how discredited the Independent truly is when selecting stories.
Of course, the media relies on government as a source of news, be it central or local government, with councils employing journalists to write media releases and government probably employing as many as Fairfax and APN combined to write them and handle press queries, which brings us to wider issues.
How damaging does it become for a short-staffed, under-resoruced or 'lazy' media to rely so much on government? Doesn't it damage its integrity/ independence?
And if the MSM cannot be trusted to be 'straight' or objective with the news, then what is its place in our hearts, it's raison-d'etre, it's gap-in-the-market?
You might as well get your news filtered by the blogs. At least from them, you know where you stand.

1 comment:

Aurora said...

Nice story! Caught the buggers out. The problem is, will your garden variety media consuming sheep know or care about the implications? Well, I hope it at least wakes a few of them up.