Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Making news

Posted on This is My Truth on 5th August 2009

What is news? And who decides?

The thought arises after BBC Wales decided to lead with this story across their outlets today three weeks late.

The recommendation of a WAG advisory panel to review the future of press bus passes for pensioners was first published on 15th July. In a deft piece of news management Ieuan Wyn Jones eventually released the report at the same time as the National Transport Plan. It was much anticipated and was only published after a lengthy tussle with the Assembly's Finance Committee to make the advice public.

But WAG snuck it out at the same time as the announcment that the proposed new M4 around Newport was being ditched. It was a good day to bury bad news. And predictably enough the contentious report was duly buried.

Journalists went for the bigger story and did not pick up on the series of other stories in the report - for example the recommendations that the rail franchise with Arriva be re-negotiated, and the advice that WAG should take power for transport away from Local Government.

Six days later the Western Mail ran a story on some aspects of the report but not the recommendation on the future of bus passes. The story was covered on this blog.

And then yesterday, on a very slow news day, the BBC decided to make it this morning's lead story after reading the post.

Now I'm not criticising the journalists - been there, done that. But it strikes me as an interesting case study of the way the media now works. And why blogs matter.

As has been much discussed on this blog and elsewhere, the media is gradually being emasculated. Journalists are being laid off or not replaced when they leave (often to become press officers). As a result the remaining reporters become more dependent on press officers and PR agencies to come up with the stories - well written press releases are now routinely being cut and pasted straight into newspapers.

And blogs are also helping to fill that void. As far back as 2004 a study of the American Presidential election concluded that blogs were of growing importance, despite their relatively tiny readership, because of their ability to shape the agenda and influence opinion formers.

Cheaper than hiring proper journalists after all. And the more dangerous for it.

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