According to Dan Brown, “the media is the right arm of anarchy”.
Quite the statement from a man who very deliberately invited the wrath of 2.3 billion Christians around the world by making the suggestion that Jesus fathered a child the narrative of his breakthrough book. Fiction or otherwise, if that’s not an anarchic call to arms, I’m not sure what is.
Still, Brown’s withering assessment of the media is a pointed indictment of how the industry has come to be regarded.
These days, revealing yourself to be a journalist often elicits the kind of reaction previously reserved for parking attendants and tax inspectors: a very slight furrowing of the brow and an almost-apologetic ‘Oh’.
Public opinion of this once-estimable occupation has plummeted to such depths that ‘The Meejah’ has become a lazy catch-all upon which to foist the blame for everything we don’t like or agree with.
The genteel world of golf is similarly afflicted. In March this year, The Telegraph’s golf correspondent James Corrigan reported that the 2020 Ryder Cup was set to be postponed. Almost immediately, the separate USA and European Twitter accounts launched into action to dismiss the report as “inaccurate”. European captain Padraig Harrington went even further, calling the claims “made-up stuff”.
Weeks later, Corrigan – an exceptionally well-connected and respected journalist, who is categorically not in the business of “making stuff up” – was vindicated when the match was, just as he reported, put off by a year. Of course, there were no apologies from those who had openly questioned his professional integrity…
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More recently, Brooks Koepka blamed ‘The Meejah’ for exaggerating the extent of his friendship with Dustin Johnson. “You guys make your own stories,” he told reporters at the Wyndham Championship. “You overplay a lot of things.”
Do we, Brooks? Because in attempting to diffuse rumours that you and DJ got into an altercation at the 2018 Ryder Cup, you went straight to the Alfred Dunhill Links and said the following to reporters: “There was no fight, no argument. He’s one of my best friends. I love the kid to death. We talked on the phone Monday and yesterday, so you tell me how we fought. People like to make a story and run with it. It’s not the first time there’s been a news story that isn’t true that’s gone out.”
From “one of my best friends” to that relationship being “overplayed” in the space of just two years. Seems like it’s you who needs to get his facts straight, Brooks.
It’s so easy to point fingers at journalists. Sometimes it’s justified. Sometimes we do get it wrong. Everybody does. But as the world has become increasingly noisy, with a platform for every voice to be heard, it seems we’ve leapt from accusations of things being “taken out of context” straight to “#FakeNews”.
People now believe who they want to believe rather than the people telling them the truth. Trouble is, it has never been easier to lie without consequence. The truth is whatever you decide it is and to hell with facts.
You might think that’s not an issue but you’re wrong.
The world needs journalists now more than ever. And by ‘journalists’, I mean actual ‘journalists’. Not ‘Wee Stevie’ who has started a blog and writes for fun as and when it suits him. I mean, I enjoy cooking but I’m not a chef.
Journalists exist to challenge, inform and report. That requires a particular skill-set, learned and perfected over time just like any other vocation. Nobody is claiming it’s the world’s most noble profession. It’s not as though it saves lives. But that’s not its purpose. It exists to broaden minds – and, now more than ever, it’s under threat.
The Herald recently made its golf writer redundant, the first time in living memory that the 237-year-old Glasgow institution has not had such a correspondent on its payroll. It used to be that you couldn’t find the football for the golf coverage in the paper. Now, to its immense shame, The Herald has decided golf doesn’t matter.
It’s happening across the industry. Golf writers are losing their jobs everywhere you look. Publications are folding. The world is evolving and some sections of ‘The Meejah’ – hard-working, dedicated, talented individuals – are being left behind. The ‘Circle of Life’, you might say. But the misplaced mistrust levelled at these individuals by virtue of their vocation is hastening their demise.
You’ll miss them when they’re gone and all you’re left with are egomaniacal, self-promoting ‘influencers’ for whom everything is for sale, not least themselves.
The media isn’t perfect. Far from it. But it’s important. Always has been, always will be.
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This article first appeared in issue 181 of bunkered (August 2020). To subscribe, click here.