Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Why the media should not praise Governments

John Bowman made an excellent point on questions and answers the last night. Brian Cowen was going on about how many roads are on time and under budget and yet the media doesn't cover that. What Bowman said but it is not news that is what they are suppose to do. If a train crashes it is news but if a train comes in on time it is not news as it is what is supposed to happen. On his blog Mark humphrys says one of the problems with western Media is.
Refusal to ever praise the west: For the media, a story does not exist unless it can cast some skeptical look over western policy. The idea of them saying: "Government and military doing well, given that they are humans. Not much to criticise." seems absurd. A story must criticise the authorities. It must be negative, and slyly skeptical. It must compare the government and military to an imaginary utopia where everything runs perfectly (actually this is very much the left-wing mindset).

This is all good and healthy, and essential to democracy. But the point is, it can distort the news. Governments do achieve good things. Over the past 200 years, we have got richer. We have got freer. Tyrants have been destroyed and threats have been ended forever. But the media can never celebrate these things. It must find things to be negative about. And it will highlight these, even if they are trivial, while ignoring the real story of success.

As I say, this is good and healthy. Non-stop criticism is what makes democracy strong, just as it does science. My point is just that it distorts the news. When government has a massive success, the media simply do not cover it.
But that is the point of good governments if they get rid of tyrants they are doing their job. When we get richer they are doing their job, when we get freer they are doing their job. We should expect that from them. That is their purpose. If you drive a car and drive at the correct speed do you get praised no that is what your have to do. When you speed then you are in trouble . When government don't do their job that is when we need the media.


Anonymous said...

I think the point being made is that when they, say, criticise a road being behind schedule, they talk about it as if that is the state of the whole road program and not just that road. I think it's only fair that government should be slammed for not keeping their word on issues that are this important, but the reporting is often very one-sided.

Indeed, to take the case of roads (it is a good example), they will report that road work hasn't been haulted when there is a burial site (or some such archaelogical feature) found. Then, a number of weeks later, will report that the road is now behind schedule, making no reference to the archaelogical dig which is taking place.

A story regarding how little is going wrong doesn't really have merit; I can understand that. At the same time, reporting half a story is not very good either.

Eamonn said...

I agree anonymous. I don't think the media should be obliged to praise the Government, but some honest reporting of the Governments overall performance would be nice.

However, its the publics fault because, boy, do we love hearing sensationalised bad news.

The one sided reporting by the media, whilst understandable to a degree, gives a very imbalanced perception of the general job being done by the government as a whole.

I suppose in one way it should act as a kick in the arse for the government, to keep the screw ups down to a minimum. Nonetheless, when only the screw-ups make the news, and in a one-sided manner, Average Joe is painted a picture of an incompetent government stumbling from one screw-up to another.

Every 5 years Average Joe gets to decide if the Government has done a good enough job to keep its job or not, so I can understand Brian Cowens frustration.