First draft of history? Gaia help us all

It is way too easy, as a historian of the present, (cough cough) to get seduced by newspapers.  They’re detailed, not infected with the memoirist’s ability to fit the events into a convenient/coherent narrative – and in theory the journalist doesn’t have a dog in the fight.

Except, no.  If there ever was a golden age, it’s long long gone.  Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News’, Robert Manne’s ‘Bad News’  etc etc etc.  And also Kerry-Anne Walsh’s The Stalking of Julia Gillard.  See clip below

This is the way of modern newspapers and online reporting for media conglomerates. A creative sub-editor on the news desk plucks bits of copy out of stories from one or more journalists in their vast stable, maybe adding a dash of AAP copy. Combined with more than a splash of hyperbolic poetic licence, it is then poured into one glorious mishmash, often under one by-line, and transmitted to all the NewsLtd tabloids. The journalists under whose by-line the story appears may not have a clue about the final story because the news outlets need to feed the twenty-four-hour online story beast makes news gathering, accuracy and fact-checking an anachronism. Despairing politicians who claim they have been misquoted or verballed, or that stories are outrageously wrong or fabricated, are ignored.

(Walsh, 2013:105-6)

The lessons?  Remember what Nick Tomalin said of politicians – ‘they lie, they lie, they lie’.   And just because it is under a hack’s by-line, don’t mean they wrote it

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