April 26, 2007

Interesting Program

This is a program well worth watching on the internet about the way that the American media helped the American administration go to war in Iraq.

On a personal note one thing that is brought up is that the major journalists didn't go and find their own facts but phoned not the most expert professional but the most telegenic person with an opinion. I have been involved in making a television program about a historical period as a researcher and remember that I was told to ring up experts rather than find out my own information and do research. I offered my producer a contributor, a Professor from Cambridge who is the most eminent scholar in the area (trust me its an area I myself am to a much lesser degree expert), my producer decided that the Professor was not telegenic enough, and went for Richard Holmes, one of the nicest guys I've ever met, a good scholar I am sure, but a man who admitted to me that he had no expertise in this particular area. The mentality of disrespect for expertise in favour of punditry and seeking expert opinion only if it is presented by an attractive telegenic personality is something that corrodes the whole media arena.

Lets put it as basically as this- if we had trusted and relied upon experts with PhDs and work in an area- then we would not be in Iraq. If we had relied upon not those whose expertise was in public relations and appearing on television but on actual real Middle Eastern affairs- we would not be there. And its not just the Middle East- people with real expertise are often treated with contempt by the media, and having worked in the Media I know this, this results in our political discourse being hurt by pundits and public relations executives as opposed to experts and civil servants.

4 comments:

T said...

It's an interesting question does the media go for people who essentially have "views" or "opinions" on issues? Some much say lazinesses but my hunch is that it is more to do with the need to represent different "perspectives" on issues and debates - and that applies whether you want to show all sides of the story or just one.

However one point (which I know you agree with but I feel I have to defend my industry): there's nonething suspicious about considerations around how information is communicated, whether that means shaping it around your audience or medium.

Surely part of the rationale behind assembling knowledge into expertise is the desire to communicate it and this can be done well (like you Gracchi) and badly?

Lord Nazh said...

funny how the 'media' got the US, UK, Australia, Poland, et al to goto war :)

Also they got the Democrats (in the US) to support a war in 1998 o.O

Pappusrif said...

More media, more information and more images lead to more errors or lies. It is always difficult to respect a certain journalistic ethics of information and communication in a society saturated with information and communication. The media are, in my view factors of lies. They contributed to rumors and lies, which were prejudicial to the truth.
It is necessary to highlight in which context this could take place. I think about the shock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. American considers these attacks are an act of war and this is why they were in majority for whatever intervention provided, that to some extent makes it possible to avenge them. Those which were against could not be entitled to say anything, Otherwise, they were regarded as antipatriotic. Personally, I do not know what could be my reaction if I was American (In a sense of what to do after 9/11). So, Information and communication are indissociable but in my opinion, it becomes vital for a journalist to make a clear distinction between a fact or data and the expression of another nature, like publicity, institutional communication or propaganda. Unfortunately, the US media were only communicating. However, I am not able to comment about the UK media but I know (correct me if I am wrong) that British in their majority were againt a war. One more point about UK: I like the fact that BBC for instance have a board of trustees securing in a way the independance of the journalists, which is not the case in France.
This is how I see the problem. By the way, Lord Nazh, thanks for your proposal but I am afraid I cant afford setting up a blog now because of lack of time, energy,... thanks anyway.

Gracchi said...

T agreed.

Lord Nazh well they helped make the case for war- if you watch the program you'll see that they reported things as fact whcih weren't- when noone knew that they were facts.

Pappusrif- the UK population were only in favour at the moment of the strike as I remember. But you are right they were much more ambivalent than the Americans. The BBC did do a good job over the war as did other journalistic organisations.

I do think there is a broader problem though about the way that we treat and mistreat information in the media- being someone who is actually trained to understand and work with information- I find much of the media reporting especially of the Middle East but also other places simply infantile- when for instance is someone going to say on a news broadcast what the difference between a Sunni and Shia Muslim is?