Dec. 24th, 2008

peterbirks: (Default)
The news world enters Christmas meltdown, where an influenza item can be the lead on the six o'clock news (accompanied by animated 'flu virals rampaging all over a London bus as if we were in a comic Disney movie), and all the proper journalists have begun their holidays in Martinique (unless they've been hit by the 'flu virus).

Radio Four's Today made a schoolboy journalistic error this morning, referring to the 'coup' in Guinea as "a sadly familiar story".

This was something that I covered at university more than 30 years ago when learning "what is news". To refer to a coup in Guinea as "sadly familiar" is just plain bad journalism. Point One. Guinea hasn't had a coup in 24 years. The "sadly familiar" refers to Africa in general. But, as you may have noticed (although the Today programme clearly hasn't), Africa is a big place.

Point Two: You never hear anything from Guinea (or Sierra Leone, or Gambia) unless there is trouble there. That's the only time it gets reported. Thus the general public (and, it would appear, not a few journalists), labour under the myth that "there's always trouble" in these countries. Well, no, there isn't. Take Ghana, for example, an African country that features far less often in the news than does Rwanda. Why so? Because, in African terms of reference at least, it's a success story. And success stories are not news.

The International press constantly overstates levels of famine, disaster, poverty and political instability in Africa, not because it exaggerates such events when they happen, but because the countries "drop off the map" when things are going well.


And so, I'm off for a few days. Enjoy Christmas everyone. No PC catering for "what about people of other faiths?" Bollocks to all this "seasonal greetings". Things are only slightly spoilt by the shock news that Father Christmas PLC has called in the receivers. Robert Peston commented:
"FC PLC was a specialist retailer highly dependent on the back-end of the year to boost its figures. Its old-fashioned distribution system was always going to struggle against the likes of Amazon, and Dabs. In addition, the brand had failed to reinvent itself over the years. Indeed, a poll of 1,000 people showed that 98% of those aged 10 did not believe that the operation was still in existence at all.


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