Thursday 30 June 2016


I've always believed that newspaper columnists' jobs (and more recently the jobs of subs and editors on news pages) was to feed the prejudices of their readers. If not exactly lying, they were at least very selective in the way that they presented the facts.

Wings has repeatedly talked about how the headline (which is what we all may see on newsstands even if we'd never buy the paper), doesn't necessarily reflect the truth. That is only revealed in the 6th paragraph on the page 6 continuation.

People want to read what they already believe. "National" readers want to hear good things about the Greens and the SNP; "Daily Mail" readers want to read bad things about them. Their job is to give their readers a fat dollop what they want to read, and in so doing, confirm that they, the readers, were right all along to believe that Nicola Sturgeon is indeed genius, or all foreigners are evil... depending on what paper they read.

We all tend to judge people (sometimes wrongly, but frequently correctly), by the papers they read. Intellectual ability, political bent, class... is all supposedly easily discerned by a quick look at what your neighbour is reading on the train of the bus. Although in more recent times with Murdoch's acquisition of "The Times" and the Barclay's of "The Daily Telegraph" this has become more difficult. And what used to be considered the "middle road" papers like "The Daily Mail" and  "The Express" have are now more or less indistinguishable from "The Sun" and "The Star".

What they all have in common is that they twist the news to suit the way that their readers expect to hear it.

Frank (one of the Munguin Press Empire's highly remunerated photographers), noticed this comment in the "Daily Mail", which both he and I thought illuminating.

 "The columnist is expected to be a master of the grand and pompous proclamation – of the Olympian assertion of how things are and how they will be, the sharp-bladed conviction that one is right and that anyone who disagrees with one is not just wrong but clearly a blithering idiot.

"In short, we are ghastly: the kind of cocksure oxygen-thieves no one wants to get stuck with at a party, the people who talk that bit too loudly in restaurants to ensure the surrounding tables can appreciate our genius. 
"This faux-omniscience is of course a stage show – we are, to a degree, in the business of entertainment, of making an impact, of provocation, and therefore often take our best guess and present it as something like hard fact.” (emphasis added)

The full article can be read here.

It's worth remembering that, straight from the horse's mouth, their job is to entertain, provoke and make an impact, all the time pretending that what they are saying is gospel. The word "inform" seems sadly lacking from that job description.


  1. Inform? Newspapers?

    1. Well, erm, we needed something to make us laugh...

  2. What is missing from the 'confession' is the word 'influence' which, truth be told, is the main reason for owning a newspaper in the first instance. The Murdochs, Barclays etc do not own the newspapers to entertain or inform but to influence, usually politically and, in many instances, it works.

    Would I be risking the wrath of Munguin if I gently suggest that whilst Munguin's Republic is entertaining and informative that the primary function is to influence the readership and a glance at the bold headline suggests in which direction the intrepid Munguin wishes us to be influenced?

    And it works for me...

    1. Munguin is aghast!

      But he say's that you're quite right.

      What's the point, he wonders, of being a media mogul, if you can't do a bit of heavy duty influencing.



  3. Tris

    Maybe it is their job to entertain now, given that most went to private school etc with those in power it is all just a game for too many of them, although I must admit I do like Owen Jones when I come across a free article, as I don't really buy papers now apart from the occasional National or Sunday Herald. I must admit to even enjoying some of David Torrance articles, it's important that you try to understand the bat shit mentality of the Tories and David certainly gives you their view, along with Massie and Nelson, the three stooges.

    But the press now just represent the owners and the powers that be, BBC included, they no longer represent the readers. I agree the headline is there to grab the attention of their perceived demographic but that is just a con as you and Stuart have pointed out, even with the papers I occasionally buy. I do like the Iscot mag though and have bought the last couple of issues.

    But the press are a problem, hence the rise in social media. My first read every day is your blog, esp comments to see if you have gotten back to any comments and for me to see where I might be missing the point. Newspapers used to do that, in the very distant past. Now we have to rely on the unpaid citizen journalist like yourself to get the facts and to the crowd funded professional like Stuart at Wings and James at Scot Goes Pop. In many ways that has been brilliant but in some ways a sad reflection on the dishonesty of the press here and elsewhere.

    Its not going to change and why I always try to encourage as many as possible to read the various blogs and web sites that encourage both an independent view and an honest view. If we can get enough people to take an interest then things will change as people learn more and those in power slowly learn that they will have to hide their lies better and are forced to bring in even more laws we hate and we then fight back even more. It will be an educational and political revolution, it just takes us a 100 years to do what the French will do in 10 but there you go , we're Scottish and canny.


    There is no fixing it

    1. First of all, thank you Bruce, for making us the first post of call.

      To be honest, I think that the best part of the blog is the comments.. different people's takes on what I've originally provided. And often I am corrected where I've got something wrong, so I learn something.

      You must remember that you too are an unpaid citizen journalist.

      We still need the press for the basis of stories I reckon... you and I, even Stuart or James, could never have uncovered the expenses scandal... but less and less, I think.

      I read no newspapers. I used twitter, and sometimes it's wrong... but then so is the BBC.

      I think things have already changed and that is thanks to social media. I'm not sure that politicians have quite understood that the days of subservient press barons, working towards their knighthood or seat in the Lords, is coming to an end.

      Wings has a bigger readership than many of these papers, and as far as I know he's not interested in being knighted so they can't buy him. (Munguin is looking for the Icelandic Grand Cross (with Collar) of the Order of the Falcon. None of that British crap, so only the Icelandic government can buy him!)

  4. If they are entertaining and not informing, they should pay VAT like everyone else.

    1. Yes, I'd say that was fair.

      Out of interest, do these silly magazines about "celebrities" (that no one has ever heard of) and their "problems" (drink, drugs, fat, boyfriends, girlfriends, children, etc that the rest of us cope with without being paid to share them) pay VAT?