‘One Sausage Factory We Don’t Want You To See’

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Harry Browne, lecturer at the School of Media at Dublin Institute of Technology 

In Village magazine…

DIT lecturer Harry Browne writes:

media (like healthcare) have a capitalism problem, and that everything from fake news to clickbait to inadequate investigative resources to Denis O’Brien flows from that basic source. But you don’t have to agree with me and name the underlying problem as capitalism to understand that there are structural causes for crises such as the one that erupted recently over Government ‘advertorial’.

“I believe the Government is attempting to exploit the difficulties many local and regional titles are facing to promote their party interests”, said no less a media critic than Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley, the party’s spokesman on communications. (How sweetly old-fashioned that word ‘communications’ can sound as it grapples with the changing world.)

Media literacy, if it is to be of any use, has to do more than implore us to look for the little ‘special feature’ tag on the top of a piece of paid corporate or government puffery, then to regard the ‘journalism’ below with due scepticism.

It must mean understanding ‘the difficulties’ for all journalism that operates in the current market, especially one in which technological change has accelerated existing trends toward blurred lines, and in which advertisers have alternatives to local and regional newspapers when it comes to reaching eyeballs.

If the most poignant aspect of that brief, quickly snowed-under ‘Ireland 2040’ crisis was the image of the Taoiseach issuing guidelines for labelling advertorial content – guidelines of which the most callow intern in a local newsroom should surely already be aware – we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that media have been operating at the edges of such guidelines for decades, for the benefit of advertisers looking to buy a little ersatz editorial credibility. How can this fail to be a lesson about how fragile, at best, any such credibility has become ?

As the media may or may not have told you, global research shows trust in media is in tatters – media are less trusted than governments, NGOs, businesses – and Irish people are at the mistrustful end of the distribution. In this context, media literacy can hardly consist of legacy media saying ‘trust us, not them’.

What can be done ? (Yes, short of getting rid of capitalism.) Anyone who has worked in a newsroom knows what a frightening prospect it would be to try to earn the public’s trust with transparency and accountability about our editorial practices.

On a daily basis, contingent and incomplete information is transformed into definitive statements of ringing certitude. That’s one sausage factory we don’t want you to see inside, especially since the work often consists of sticking our label on someone else’s meat.

The irony is that the technology often over-simplistically blamed for creating the journalism crisis has long offered tools for remarkable transparency, tools that most journalists have chosen to use only in limited ways…

 

Read in full: Capitalisteracy (Harry Browne, Village)

Earlier: The Great Irish Fake-Off

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26 thoughts on “‘One Sausage Factory We Don’t Want You To See’

  1. petey

    “media (like healthcare) have a capitalism problem, and that everything from fake news to clickbait to inadequate investigative resources to Denis O’Brien flows from that basic source.”

    exactly right.

  2. Stuboy

    have worked in media for over 15 years. some of that close to politics. am well familiar with the links between business, politics and media outlets. as a result I’m extremely sceptical of anything I read or watch. the idea that media is objective when owners and senior execs rub shoulders with politicians and business people is naive in the extreme.

    1. Bull Duggan

      You’ve worked in media for 15 years yet still haven’t mastered the art of using a capital letter to start a sentence ?

  3. david

    Its comical
    This is reality is the EU want to control media
    Echoes of the last Reich’s propaganda
    It simply cannot be controlled thank god to the internet
    As soon as Leo the cheque’s in the post varadka disappears into Noonan’s fiscal space the better for this country
    By the way a swastika symbol of the last Reich is an Indian symbol and of course the logo of the now defunct Dublin laundry called swastika
    Micky pull the plug and do us all a favour

      1. Papi

        By the way a swastika symbol of the last Reich is an Indian symbol and of course the logo of the now defunct Dublin laundry called swastika

    1. Papi

      Apparently a little bird told me its deep underground in the Russian embassy in rathgar,and that’s why little Leo verruca expelled that dreaded Ruskie.

  4. steve white

    you cut the article off just when he was getting to the point about hyperlinks, a 27 year old bit of technology that even online newspapers still refuse to use, Which I gather they do not because they are putting concerns about competitors over servicing readers, they fear people leaving site and to create appearance of false scarcity of news ie to hide the fact they are just copying a pres release.

    1. david

      I always get a feeling when an article is genuine
      Certain tell tale signs then I check all media Russian European American Arabic and trawl through the internet before making up my mind
      Yes there is fake news yes there is warping expanding but in the end the truth emerges
      I would be very suspicious of anything the EU announces and as for Leos politt bureau its not to believed
      The best comical piece was prime times over the Russian embassy ,it was straight out of doctor Strangelove
      Drone aerial footage and talk like they are building a command bunker big enough to house armies
      Meanwhile the expulsion of the Russian diplomat is going to cost Ireland dearly regarding trade with Russia.
      Leo really is not up to the job and single handedly he will be the ruination of us

      1. Papi

        By the way a swastika symbol of the last Reich is an Indian symbol and of course the logo of the now defunct Dublin laundry called swastika
        LEVE PALESTINA

      2. Rob_G

        “I always get a feeling when an article is genuine”

        – sure, you sure seem to have a balanced view on things, anyhow…

        1. Papi

          Apparently a little bird told me its deep underground in the Russian embassy in rathgar,and that’s why little Leo verruca expelled that dreaded Ruskie.

      3. Papi

        Certain tell tale signs then I check all media Russian European American Arabic and trawl through the internet before making up my mind

  5. Sir Adolf Von Bratwurst

    I work in a local paper. The advertising staff tell potential advertisers that a journalist will write a story about them if they take out an ad. the story will not be marked as advertorial either. it is completely unethical. i try to avoid writing these stories but my colleagues end up doing them.

    1. phil

      I got caught like that , I was looking for a new house alarm system, did a bit of googling, and found a story on the Indo about a company , needless to say the article made them sound great. I called them and out they came, No branded vehicle and I found out later a system I could have bought and installed myself off amazon for 1/4 the price , He disconnected my old wired system , and the bell outside the house went off , he didnt have a ladder long enough to reach and told me he wasnt insured the go that ‘high’ anyway. He assured me the battery would run down in a few hrs, the thing rang for two days, the gardai were out the neighbours were very annoyed, eventually one neighbour arrived with a ladder and we bashed the thing off the wall. The new system worked for a week.

      There is plenty more to the story, I wont bore you, but that was my first experience with an advertorial… I learned a very important lesson that day….

  6. steve white

    The Project 2040 native advertising story was forced out by the Times and this INM data story so you have one dodgey media mogul employees combatting another, is this the best we can hope for? and then you have charities like Amnesty and/ICCL saying we want to keep our rich man funding (eg Feeney) too.

    1. Deeply Conflicted SCT Rugby Head

      We already have a Stasi approach to op-ed and campaigning journalism.

  7. Deeply Conflicted SCT Rugby Head

    Harry Browne is right. Technology is only blamed when the wrong answer or result appears, politically.

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