Friday, June 15, 2007

How the media loses those shades of grey

The previous posting put me in mind of a story that a former colleague of mine used to relate about the ways in which subtleties and shades of opinion get lost amid journalists’ wish to simplify news coverage.

In 1990, the Tory Cabinet Minister Nicholas Ridley created a sensation and was forced to resign as a result of accusing the Germans of wanting to ‘take over the whole of Europe’ in an interview in the Spectator.

During the media furore over this, one of the broadcasting channels visited Cirencester, in Ridley’s constituency to get his constituents’ views on his comments. My ex-colleage, who lived in Cirencester, was one of those stopped and asked his opinion. Being a contrary type he said that he thought Ridley was completely wrong, but didn’t think he should resign, because it was a good thing when politicians spoke their minds.

Watching television that evening to see if he would be ‘on the news’, he realised that his remarks didn’t fit the journalists’ pre-ordained script. And indeed the interviewees whose comments were broadcast either said ‘Yes, I agree with him the Germans are a rotten lot’ or ‘No, I disagree, he must resign’. Any opinion that was nuanced or quirky didn’t stand a chance.’

No comments: