from the piffle-and-tosh dept
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is something of an institution in the UK, famous for his blond mop of hair and outrageous opinions. He's also been a journalist on and off for two decades, and is close to Rupert Murdoch, so it should perhaps come as no surprise that he's penned a characteristically witty defense of British newspapers. They're currently under threat of having governmental regulation imposed upon them in the wake of the UK's Leveson Inquiry, written in response to years of journalists breaking the law in search of hot stories, as Johnson acknowledges:
They have shoved their slavering snouts into the parlours of weeping widows, and by their outrageous lies they have driven the relatives of their victims to suicide. When you read Leveson in full, you are left to ponder the mystery of how people can behave like this. Are these journalists that much nastier and more cynical than the rest of the human race? Why do they seem to have got out of control? The answer is simple. The press are no nastier than anyone else; quite the reverse. On the whole, journalists are highly intelligent, amusing and frequently idealistic.
But if that is the case, how is it possible they have been shoving their slavering snouts all over the place? Johnson has a simple explanation:
for some papers the costs are becoming prohibitive. Every year, every month, they are losing ground to blogs and Twitter and Google News; every year the internet eats more destructively into the business case for old-fashioned journalism. That is at least one of the reasons why some journalists have been driven to behave so disgracefully, squawking ever louder, no matter how erroneously, in the hope of being noticed.
Yes, it's all the Internet's fault. Those poor journalists lost their otherwise robust moral compass because Big Bad Google and friends have been progressively stealing their daily bread. Of course, we've heard this narrative about Google destroying newspapers many times before. It's what publishers around the world are saying, while asking for a cut of Google's revenues. It's what Rupert Murdoch has been saying, although he still wants to be included in Google's search results.
But this whole idea is "an inverted pyramid of piffle", to use a famous phrase of Johnson's. It wasn't Google and the Internet that destroyed traditional journalism, it was the newspapers themselves by refusing to evolve as new technologies have come along that changed the relationship with the reader in significant ways. Johnson's attempt to deflect blame away from the guilty parties onto the agents of technological change is simply shabby.