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August 27, 2021

YOUNG people calling themselves “journalists” are now totally unconditionally trotting out marketing material from estate agents and property auctioneers apparently thinking that that is news. Are they being paid and why is nobody telling them what news really is?

Also, why are regular COVID-19 infection and death rates being lazily trotted out as news yet nobody, and I mean nobody, who is a relative of someone who has died of COVID-19 and can prove that they did is ever interviewed in person for an eye-witness account of exactly what happened? Have we stopped asking “Who are these people and where do they live?”

No actual real people – Mr and Mrs Jones, of 34 Constitution Road, Bargoed, whose relative Tom, 81, died of COVID-19 and they want to talk about it – appear at all. All you get is bland data because journalists no longer develop contacts and speak to real people as the industry has been reduced to imprisoned word processors cut and pasting from the internet.

Journalism is now no more than impersonal and unattributed data delivered by agents of the state and marketing and business moguls to media, which trots it out without questions, queries or challenges, not even bothering to attempt to humanise it.

Editorial and Advertising – always unsuitable partners endlessly fighting for a bigger portion of the bed, the one less concerned than the other about leaving behind embarrassing stains and far, far less choosy or concerned about how they made those stains and who else they invited into the bedroom or under what circumstances “If we all make money, who cares?” – were often positioned physically next to each other in newspaper buildings but philosophically and intellectually they were oceans apart (university graduates in one and sharpshooting chancers in the other, the way they dressed always gave it away).

I remember as a cub reporter wondering why an editor was so polite and friendly to the relative of a proprietor who came in one day a week to write unconditionally positive prose about some hotel or store trying to win business locally when I had a story about a “very” potentially corrupt council official.

My story might have been “very” wrong and it would have cost them a lot of money in legal costs if it was whereas the unconditionally positive prose would ensure lots of “very” lovely lolly today, tomorrow and for ages to come for all the staff if it helped boost the hotels and stores. Go figure!

That advertorial copy was helping to pay my wages because news is gathered under a business model which relies, usually, on firms to pay for advertising which then pays for the editorial content apportioned down within that model unless, of course, it is the BBC or The Guardian, where such rudimentary rules delightfully do not apply.

That is why the lower down the journalistic scale you fall the less likely you are to be backed financially by your bosses for taking a risk editorially which might uncover wrongdoing or corruption and the more pressure you will be under to merge editorial with advertorial, explicitly or, as appears to be the case now, by trying to make it seem like news in a cruel con trick which demeans and degrades the young person who writes it much, much more than anyone else.

The distance between the two has narrowed so much over the years that there is probably now no discernible difference in the minds of millennials brought up with persistent, invasive, insidious advertising blinking and screeching at them on their mobile phones so that the mind is conditioned to SKIP to enter anything and everything and boundaries between one and the other seem less certain and clearly defined.

Hence we have a small army of “digital content editors” and aspirant “trainee reporters” trotting out press releases slavishly with picture by-lines galore flung around like confetti at a wedding unrelated to personal merit or worth of the actual story. No self-respecting journo would want to be even acknowledged by having their name attached to woeful, fearful, timid, compromised and dire advertorial fodder like this.

Inside Newport house on market for nearly three years | South Wales Argus

There are no news editors to taste, reject or process and polish and no sub editors to then refine, query, correct and improve in a qualitative process of monitoring and mentoring young people keen to do as I did and progress from weekly to evening to daily news to carve out a career in telling unfortunate and inconvenient truths rather than fortunate and convenient lies.

If journalism were a restaurant and Chef Ramsey was tasked with assessing it then working on solutions and improvements to turn it around he would tell the young chefs to stop re-heating old stodge in the microwave without first checking to see if it smells off or is rancid, hunt out fresh ingredients in the field and not rely on frozen, processed chips and baked beans, but above all he would tell them to get out of the kitchen to spend time meeting people in person so they can make what they produce relate and appeal to them. Get a notepad and pen, knock doors, take down notes, ask for personal information, make a bloody nuisance of yourself and never take NO for an answer.

Which professional body is overseeing the training of our young journalists so that they instinctively know the difference between editorial and advertorial and are encouraged to prioritise one above the other and where is the established hierarchy to model and mentor?

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