Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thin soup

The deep structure of news reporting requires certain
narrative loops to be regularly, repetitively completed.
This is particularly true of election campaigns, which,
in a way that is highly satisfactory to the media, have a
clear beginning, middle and end, and can be easily
reduced to their baldest, most obvious form: the
contest, the race, the fight. The metaphors are
irresistible when you don't have the time, resources or
incentives to think harder and report deeper.

At some point, you can bet, the gloves will come off. A
debate will take place at which a knockout blow could
occur. But the knockout blow isn't delivered. It never
is, actually. What would it look like if it was? No matter.
The stale imagery, into which the mind can slide with
minimal brain strain, does the job. At any given time
someone has to be on the back foot and someone must
have the upper hand. At some point there will be a stark
contrast between two parties or politicians—but, lo,
they will then be singing from the same songsheet.
Someone else will play the get-tough-on-crime card...

We have an impoverished language for this kind of
reporting and commentary, and as George Orwell said
in "Politics and the English Language," the more
slovenly the language, the lazier and vaguer the thinking.

In the information society there is only one
news story permanently running—an endless
pseudo-event cooked up according to an
invariable recipe and operating on a basis of
financial viability. It’s just that the corpses
floating in this soup come from different
places at different times of the year.—Victor Pelevin


Mary McCallum said...

Yes, the same complaint is made of sports reporting in this country, by the likes of Lloyd Jones. Given the drama playing out on the rugby fields and the cricket grounds, the language used could be so much richer and more evocative but it often comes down to the same repetitive thin soup of language that adds nothing to what is being watched, but rather reduces it.

Mary McCallum said...

Um, I mean Lloyd makes the complaint not that he does the reporting....