Toxic Waste: The Media

Since I began this blog, I have set out an aim to connect different strands of political analysis in a more coherent form in order to create a ‘better’ way of looking at politics in general. I have so far looked at current affairs issues, political thought and in-depth monographs. Following the creation of the blog, I have also begun to listen to podcasts and read more newspapers. I have browsed an insurmountable number of blogs, some of which are on the right hand side of this site. What has struck me the most is the lack of a discursive element in most political discussions. Is it completely out of touch with the rest of the blogosphere?

The importance of the academic is critical to the ‘real’ world of politics. The brand of politics I would like to see is re-connecting this academic strand of political analysis to journalism and the media. At the moment, however, I would place the majority of newspapers in a category of ‘toxic waste’. This is not because I am ignorant, far from it, it is because I am open-minded to what politics can achieve. It cannot do so if the media focuses more on newspaper sales than spreading knowledge and critical analysis of political events.

As an example, the politics of public expectations has been covered near to nil in the media. Yet it is emerging as an important strand in theories of public governance, as well as raising difficult questions about the extent to which governments should adhere to public opinion. The media manipulates statistics, changes politicians’ words, and polarises public opinion (just look at the furore over William Hague). The important role of the media as providing a role of accountability appears to be weakening in the pursuit of making money.

Some newspapers are taking steps to encourage a more ‘civic’ style of journalism, the Guardian being one example. Yet it is not printing this on its front page, it is hidden in its ‘Comment is Free’ section online, which could be called a blueprint for a more analytically based journalism. It is here that you may find discussions by Wilkinson and Pickett, or their critics, deliberations on the importance of state and the governance of Britain. But it is also small, opinionated and a based on thoughts from a single journalist or editor.

The academic is important because it offers an informed view on current affairs. Of course the market for this is very slim at the moment – the Sun, the Mirror, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail will continue to offer toilet trash material for the rest of their existence. More than anything, then, this is a plea to newspaper readers and the public more widely to engage in politics and analyse issues in a more grown-up way.

Dream on.

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