I find myself in a strange discombobulating situation of leaping to the defence of a trade I have often been extremely critical of. Indeed you don’t have to scroll very far down by blogs to find my dislike of modern expressions of journalism.
Add to that some of the pictures we have seen this week of reporters gathering around the house of Dominic Cummings are dreadful. The behaviour of some of our leading correspondents only worsened by behaviour of newspaper proprietors.
So it seems strange for me to come to their defence but feel I must. Some of the talk and overreaction this week has been troubling. The vitriol against the main stream media , as they have been labelled by populist leaders almost frenzied.
And that is not good, Joni Mitchell once sung that “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” and I feel some people in the rush to criticise (often fairly) and demonise the press far to quickly forget.
There is a disturbing and febrile international climate at the moment that is facilitating and legitimising the notion that it is open season on journalists. If that isn’t bad enough there are also dark forces at work.
The hashtag ‘scummedia’ started trending this week but twitter observers noticed something awry. The hashtag did not exist until over the course of an hour 6 seemingly random twitter accounts started tweeting the hashtag at six high profile journalists, this lasted just under an hour where 600 tweets including this hashtag were sent. It was a deliberate and coordinated attack.
Of course it worked by the end of the same day #scummedia was trending and the hashtag has been shared widely since.
The Washington post highlighted the similarities of this hashtag with the Slogan the Nazi’s used to similarly vilify and subsequently suppress the press. ‘Lügenpresse’ meaning lying press. Consider the modern day equivalents used by the populist leaders of the day FAKE NEWS and now scummedia.
Indeed there is quite the juxtaposition these days, populist leaders try more and more to circumnavigate the media, flooding social media with their own messages and videos and using third party agent provocateurs activists to spread their messages. Yet at the same time we have more access to news channels and subsequently journalists than every before. I am not exactly sure the two elements sit that well together.
So back to Jodi Mitchell. I read one Facebook entry today that read “wouldn’t it be nice if all MSM was banned for 30 days” and I got the shivers. You have your liberty stole from you as in places like China is dreadful enough but to willingly and gladly give it away is downright madness. Walter Klondike the veteran CBS news anchor famously said ”freedom of the press is not important to democracy it IS democracy.”
Jodi sings that they paved paradise and put up a parking lot, the current often misfiring and tone deaf press are hardly utopian but they are a lifeline to freedom.
So just like me feel free to berate them, bemoan them, groan and pull your hair out at them. And yes, hold them accountable but remember to also appreciate our free press. As Jodi reminded us as her screen door slammed we don’t know know what you got till it’s gone.