Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Historian gives MSM twenty years

I was invited last night as a guest of the Centre for Independent Studies to hear historian Arthur Herman deliver this year's John Bonython lecture: "History as the Story of Liberty: A Globalised Western Civilisation." I'll review the fascinating lecture later today, but I'll just note here a point made by Herman in the question period that should interest the blogosphere.

The mainstream media, suggested Herman, has lost the crucial virtue of immediacy to the blogosphere, and with that the days of the MSM are numbered.

News in the US print media for example is all simply recycled reports from the NY Times and wire services, which is then picked up and rewritten and re-analysed and re-splashed across the country's papers, but even that initial report on which everyone is relying is probably written by someone at some distance from the story, someone who's perhaps talked over the phone to someone who talked to someone who saw the story being reported. Or so they said.*

As anyone involved in anything that is ultimately reported in the press would know, the stories as they actually happened bear only a passing resemblance to what finally appears in print. Now, in courts around the world reports collected in this way would be ruled out as hearsay, yet important decisions are made on the basis of these rudimentary reports, and over time people are going to demand better -- and blogs, says Herman, are perfectly placed to be that better thing.

He gives it twenty years for the mainstream print media to wither and die, and for blogs to take over as the main source of news.

Invest now.

* The Vegemite story is an example of this. The "horrifying" story about a "Vegemite ban in the US" (Google links here) was first written up by an Australian newspaper and was then picked up by other "news" sources and rewritten for their own pages -- often with added hysteria -- but who had actually paused to determine whether the story was true or a puff-piece from Vegemite manufacturer Kraft? "Expatriates" who were reported as being stopped at airports after the "ban" was put in place turned out to be one reporter from the Geelong Advertiser who wrote as an yet unauthenticated report claiming a ban, and people subsequently reporting a Vegemite shortage in US supermarkets (perhaps as a result of the 'guerrilla advertising' so compliantly peddled by the press?)

Meanwhile, "Vegemite ban may be urban legend," suggests OverLawyered.Com. And "there is no ban on Vegemite," confirms US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman Mike Herndon. A pity no-one clarified that before the MSM disseminated the scare story.

As I say, this is only a trivial example, but too many of these debacles and over time the mainstream media loses whatever reputation it still retains for the veracity of its reports when it comes to things of more importance.



  1. The Independent is now officially in a joint venture with a group of activist groups pressing for action on climate change.
    They were open about this and included it in one of their stories reprinted in the Herald. HOWEVER, the Herald editors decided to delete this important information.
    Readers of these reprints should know that the Independent is no longer reporting on climate change.
    It is a self declared lobbyist.

  2. It is telling that the Vegemite story was so bellievable. The US folate regulations really do have provisions for banning certain foods which have TOO MUCH folate added (too much folate can cover up a vitamin B12 deficiency).

    And this is just the sort of stupid thing that governments around the world do ...


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