Bristol Evening Churn

Investigative journalist, Nick Davies, in his brilliant exposé of the news media, Flat Earth News, describes how cost cutting and profit chasing has turned journalism into ‘churnalism’, and newsrooms into ‘news factories’. The results of the ‘news factory’ approach to journalism are clearly on display in two stories in the Post this week.

On Monday (March 30) the Post carried this ‘story’,

The force isn’t with Bristol police

Monday, March 30, 2009, 07:00

A bizarre request under the Freedom of Information Act reveals there are no police officers in Avon and Somerset who are following the Jedi faith.

Jedi holy warriors are the heroes of George Lucas’s ever-popular series of Star Wars films who defend the republic from the evil Sith.

The request read: “How many current police officers and police staff in your force have declared their religion as Jedi?”

The reply read: “Your request for information has now been considered and I can confirm that Avon and Somerset Constabulary have no police officers or police staff who have declared their religion as Jedi.”

When the last national census was taken, a national campaign was launched telling people that if 10,000 people put their faith as “Jedi”, it would become an official religion.

. . .

Notable Jedi include Obi Wan Kenobi, played by Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor, and of course the green-skinned Yoda.

But what Bristol lacks in Jedi, it makes up for in Sith with our very own Dave Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original trilogy of movies.

. . .

As you may have guessed this exclusive ‘cops don’t follow made-up religion’ scoop was not the product of hours of investigative digging. I was the result of an overworked Post hack in need of a story to fill up space resorting to the dregs of the police website’s Freedom of Information pages.

Is this the lowest, cheapest most desperate waste of ink excuse for journalism to have ever soiled the pages of a ‘serious’ newspaper?

Then, Tuesday (March 31), we get this,

Bristol protestors off to G20

Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 07:00

Coachloads of protesters will travel from Bristol to march through London on Wednesday before the start of the G20 summit when world leaders meet to discuss the global downturn.

A number of different groups and networks are planning to protest including the Stop the War Coalition, CND, climate change activists, trade unionists, religious groups and anarchists.

Thousands of people are expected to join a climate change “flashcamp” in the Square Mile which is being co-ordinated by text message.

The Camp for Climate Action will be promoting the idea that the failed economic system has not just created the financial crisis but is responsible for climate change.

Organisers argue that a radically different economy is needed, not one based on endless growth, and that governments will not be able to bail out the climate in the way that banks have been saved.

Click here!. . .

The Stop the War Coalition, focused on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament are holding a rally at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, at 2pm tomorrow as well as a protest at the Excel Centre on Thursday.

More than 35,000 people – including many from Bristol – are estimated to have taken part in a London march organised on Saturday by a coalition of environmental, religious and trade union groups called Put People First.

They want the UK government and other countries to start building an economy that puts people and the planet first.

One activist who attended, writing on the Bristol Indymedia website, said: “I’ve started to question these marches I go on, normalised as they are for Londoners, protesters and police alike.

“Structured around a standardised route, only tourists bat an eyelid now. How many marches and how many people are necessary for change to occur. And that change is probably the major problem.

“With so many disparate groups of anarchists, socialists, unionists and greens appearing side-by-side, it can be difficult to work out exactly what form these changes must take.

” There is passion in the ranks, there is energy, but is there collective focus? Can there be?

“The lack of coherence of the groups will, inevitably lead to splintering and frustration.

“There will undoubtedly be violence in what has already been dubbed the coming Summer of Rage, probably starting at the further G20 protests this week. We can all feel it in the air.”

Avon and Somerset police said they would be sending a “small contingent” of officers to help out the Metropolitan force in policing the protests.

The G20 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the US and the EU.

Now, in what school of journalism is it acceptable to report a serious and contentious political story without speaking to any of the participants? How can it be right that the only quote in this story (other than two words from the cops) is cut and pasted from a pseudonymous, critical, contribution to a website?

There were at least four coaches from Bristol to last Saturday’s protest, all organised by major trade unions. The organisers of the march included trade unions and NGOs like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, many of which have offices in Bristol. The coaches have been advertised on websites and posters across Bristol for weeks along with contact details; we’re not talking about secret, underground anarchist cells organising this.

Why are Post journos incapable of picking up the phone and speaking to the local organisers and participants of this campaign?

And why pick only the critical and contentious bits from their anonymous quote? Why not this,

Having met my activist friends and been handed dozens of creatively produced flyers and spoof newspapers, I trailed out with the excited crowd to wait for the start of the march. We had no idea how many people would attend, and anybody who’s ever been to a protest knows how difficult it is to estimate numbers during the event. I heard afterwards the police estimated 35,000. Bodycounts in all their forms obsess mainstream media reporters. Sometimes a wonderful party atmosphere prevailed, fuelled by Anarchist drums and trade union brass bands.

And why have the quoted this,

“There will undoubtedly be violence in what has already been dubbed the coming Summer of Rage, probably starting at the further G20 protests this week. We can all feel it in the air.”

But left out this,

. . . it can be difficult to work out exactly what form these changes must take. My mind wandered as Tony Robinson, the poster-boy (!) of the protests appeared on stage again. I wondered how bystanders can be convinced of anything when protests are becoming the norm. I wondered how these large collections of people can actually make their complex points in the mainstream media when reporters don’t care about anything but violence. There is passion in the ranks . . .

This is churnalism. It’s Google researched, cut and paste reporting with ideological spin for good measure. And it’s only going to get worse if Northcliffe get away with pushing through their latest round of cuts and layoffs.

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8 Responses to “Bristol Evening Churn”

  1. Pop Says:

    Sorry, this has got nothing to do with cost cutting.
    It is quite valid for a Post reporter to follow up an FoI question to the police. Using FoI is not “churnalism”, it’s a valid source for a story. However, it’s a starting point and should lead to more investigation. Ideally, the question should be asked by a Post journalist in the first place.
    As for the rest of it, that’s simply bad management of reporters and nothing to do with layoffs.

    • eveningpostwatch Says:

      However, it’s a starting point and should lead to more investigation.

      Investigation? Of what? This a complete non-story. It’s a page filler based on a trawl of the police website. It’s the kind of crap newspapers fill their pages with because it’s easier, cheaper and less time consuming than real journalism. Just look at the comments under the story on your website; people don’t give a fuck about this crap. You patronise your readers if you think we care about some idiot asking the police how many officers subscribe to a fictional religion.

      As for the rest of it, that’s simply bad management of reporters and nothing to do with layoffs.

      Sorry, I don’t really understand what you mean here.

  2. Anarchis606 Says:

    And the post wonders why its audience is dropping, dropping, dropping. Bristol is changing and yet the post is stuck in a conservative timewarp.

    Great post, keep up this important blog!

  3. Fred Says:

    I have to laugh at this ‘blog’. Isn’t it easy to hide behind anonymity, spout whatever you want and do so whenever you want. You go on about ‘churnalism’ and ‘real journalism’. Surely the first principle of ‘real journalism’ is accountability and balance. Your blog is a one-eyed rant at a target (EP), while you hide behind anonymity, totally refusing to put a name to your postings. You are in no position to criticise anyone else’s journalism. Also, it is easy to write stories when the mood takes you rather than to the pressure of daily deadlines. Your last five posts have been on April 1, Mar 14, Mar 7, Feb 17 and Feb 13. Hardly a prodigious output???

    And finally, to quote you …
    “Now, in what school of journalism is it acceptable to report a serious and contentious political story without speaking to any of the participants?”

    So how often do you approach the EP for a comment?

    I look forward (but don’t expect) your reply

    • eveningpostwatch Says:

      Thing is Fred, I ain’t a journalist and this ain’t a newspaper.

      You must be very naive if you think any journalism is ‘balanced’; what does this even mean? Show me ‘balanced’ journalism?

      As for publishing anonymously; well, I could tell you my name but how would that make me any more or less accountable? You still wouldn’t know who the hell I am. And who would I be accountable to? You? Well, I’m answering your tedious comments.

      Journalists publish their names, does that make the press accountable? To whom? Do you ever read the papers?

  4. Fred Says:

    It doesn’t matter if it’s a newspaper, or a blog or whatever. It’s ‘media’. The point is, your only point is how bad the EP is, usually based on criticising standards etc. But then you display exactly those characteristics yourself. I also notice you are very prickly when anyone questions what you do. If you dish it out, be prepared to take it.

  5. eveningpostwatch Says:

    “It doesn’t matter if it’s a newspaper, or a blog or whatever. It’s ‘media’. ”

    What are you on about, Fred? All media are quite obviously not the same, are they?

    This blog isn’t run by trained journalists or owned and funded by a multinational corporation nor does it claim to publish news or journalism.

    It is a blog run by ordinary Bristolians who are pissed off with the unaccountability of the corporate monopoly press. We are obviously not attempting to rival the Evening Post. We are just commenting, criticising and taking the piss.

    Remember, journalistic ‘standards’ are usually set by the news industry itself, yet they continually fail to live up to their own lofty ideals.

    We don’t claim to work to some code of ethics or standards. We don’t believe in balanced, objective journalism and we don’t pretend to.

    Prickly? Not at all, mate. I really couldn’t give a fuck what you think. I don’t know who you are, you don’t know who I am; this blogosphere doesn’t really mean shit in the real world, does it?

  6. Wee Jinty Hopper Says:

    Och awee yer feece. haud yer wheesht and shawve yer grannehs, ah canny allaw ye tae keep dissen the wee Pawst thes wee, etts ma life dawnt ye knaw, naw pack ett en.

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