News to make the rich richer

I wrote this comment in response to the following article by the World Association of Newspapers and Newspaper Publishers.

Thomson Reuters can hire all the new journalists it wants but won’t change anything fundamental about its daily news file. Sorry about that.

The agency deserves its reputation as providing a service that helps rich people get richer – that’s exactly what it does. Whatever its editorial cheerleaders might say about speed, accuracy and freedom from bias, they can’t escape the reality that the vast bulk of their clients, by value, work in finance.

The rarely spoken truth about journalism is that the news you get from any media outlet turns on a handful of factors.

They include income sources (banks/finance for Reuters), ownership (Reuters is controlled by a few very rich individuals), reporters’ choice of news sources (overwhelmingly traders, banks, economists, governments and other institutions), editorial ideology (profoundly one of dergulated banks, markets, trade, status-quo institutions and free-market capitalism) and, finally, the organisation’s response to real or feared “flak” or hostile elite criticism of its output (generally supine).

Despite serial financial crises around the world, various environmental ones looming, growing inequality across many countries and plummeting faith in conventional politics and politicians we get what from Reuters in response? Nothing sustained, nothing coherent and nothing journalistically credible – despite its mammoth editorial operation.

The only comfort for Reuters is that it’s in good company with all the other major globe-spanning and national news organisations you might care to name. None serves ordinary people’s interests or highlights the farce that representative democracy has become in the face of modern markets, finance and corporations.

It took me 11 years as a Reuters reporter (1994-2005) to realise the lock down on editorial thinking created by these different factors combined together. I was lucky to be able to grab a voluntary redundancy cheque and get out in search of alternatives.

So what did I find? The good news is that there are alternatives, the bad that they take time to build. They include doing journalism focused on governance and accountability to citizens as its core role, illustrating the global and national from local perspectives. It means training others to do the same and to share the content for free to help improve our political and media literacy.

In essence, it’s the sort of thing I dreamed Reuters could do before I got tired of banging my head against the wall trying to persuade my editors that that was what “freedom from bias” really meant.

I get into the whys and hows in far greater detail in my book Fraudcast News – How Bad Journalism Supports Our Bogus Democracies. It’s free to download as a PDF via the link or to buy as an eBook or paperback.

And no, I’m not expecting a Pulitzer.

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2 Comments

Filed under democracy, journalism

2 responses to “News to make the rich richer

  1. Ian

    http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/former-employee-wins-race-against-media-giant

    Having failed to get the mainstream media to pick up my story I was also disappointed that The Baron were also not interested. Maybe an uncomfortable truth and the fact that they are not as independent as they would claim to be.

  2. Hi Ian

    I read the article about your case in The Voice and have to say I am mighty impressed that you took it on yourself. It’s a huge deal, and personally stressful and time-consuming, to handle complex legal issues as an amateur versus corporate professionals and to win. Congratulations.

    As for The Baron – I think it’s pretty rubbish that they are not interested in your story. As for the site’s independence, I wouldn’t hold my breath judging by the narrow range of perspectives presented in its articles. It doesn’t surprise me really.

    I’m not sure what your plans are now, I read that you’re working on your own account. Your experience is a valuable one, for Thompson Reuters employees past, present and future as well as anyone feeling crushed by the weight of corporate power against the individual, of which there are many, not to mention those suffering discrimination on grounds of race, sexual orientation, religion and the rest.

    You’ve already given a lot of time to this – it’s for you to decide how much more you want to give this matter versus what other things you want to fill your life with. As for an apology – these people rarely do apologies.

    My thinking on all this is governed by the conclusions laid out in the excellent book and documentary The Corporation (http://thecorporation.com/) – which talks of modern companies as behaving as would a psychopath.

    Good luck with your future work – it’s clear that you have great courage and tenacity to go with your technology skills. Loads of fun and good things to be had with all that.

    Thanks for your post.

    Cheers

    Patrick

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