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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Do The Media Matter?

"Well, old man, I will tell you news of your son:
give me your blessing: truth will come to light;
murder cannot be hid long; a man's son may,
but at the length truth will out."
The Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene ii

Whether you love or hate Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (or the UK media's own Editors' Code of Practice), its perfectly understandable that a judge doesn't consider it in the public interest for the media to publish the 'news' that a man and woman have bonked each other, or that a court has made a decision to that effect.

At first I found it strange that John Hemming MP would choose this particular location on which to build his redoubt in defence of freedom of expression. But then I read his Wikipedia entry.

The Trafigura saga is perhaps a far better example of something on the margins. However, it also shows that an issue may grow to be considered in the public interest in due course, despite early attempts to keep it under wraps. And that the 'traditional media' have little to do with that process, although a mention in Private Eye might be required to get the ball rolling. By contrast, it seems the recent Twitter coverage of bonking injunctions was driven more by media folk and an opportunistic MP than the genuine ferocity behind the social media attention given to Trafigura.

In other words, the truth about matters of real public interest will out. Maybe not in a way that allows the tabloids a 'scoop' and a fast buck. But it will out.

So perhaps the biggest irony in all this is the enormous quantity of free advertising the traditional media have lavished on Twitter. For the sake of argument, they point to Twitter as a rival media property. If Twitter can publish, they complain, why can't the media?

Let's put aside the reality that Twitter does not have anything like the marketing spend, reach or 'authority' behind it as the UK press. The fact is that Twitter is an unedited dynamic, the product of its individual participants' own publishing decisions. For the media to complain about Twitter is simply to admit that the truth will out in spite of them.


Image from Mogulite.
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