Flat Earth News: The Ten Rules of Journalism

Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News

cover_0Rule 1 – run cheap stories

This rule requires you to select stories that are quick to cover and safe to publish. This discourages tricky investigations and distorts the selection of ordinary news stories in favour of those that are simple, uncontentious and easy to get hold of.

Rule 2 – select safe facts

This rule requires you to favour factual statements which are safe, especially those that can be attributed to official sources. If an official statement accuses a man of being a criminal, you can’t be sued for using it, but if a man accuses a government official of being a criminal, it can.

Rule 3 – avoid the electric fence

This extends the rule of safe facts from favouring official sources. Always avoid writing about any organisation or individual with the power to hurt you or your news organisation.

Rule 4 – select safe ideas

This runs parallel to the selection of safe facts by requiring you to select moral and political values which are also safe. In other words, use ideas that reflect the surrounding consensus.

Rule 5 – always give both sides of the story

This is the safety net rule. It means that, if all else fails, and you end up having to publish something which is not safe, you bang in some quotes from the other side to ‘balance’ the story. Balance means never having to say you are sorry – because you’ve not said anything.

Rule 6 – give them what they want

Write stories that increase readership or audience. If we can sell it, we’ll take it.

Rule 7 – the bias against truth

Don’t provide a context, select stories that are short and can be written quickly. ‘Short stories, more fun and plenty of variety’.

Rule 8 – give them what they want to believe in

Always select ideas with commerce in mind. Don’t run stories that you are not going to get money for. If the public want negative stories about asylum seekers, that’s what they’ll get.

Rule 9 – Go with the moral panic

This only applies to periods of ‘crisis’. Always sell the nation a heightened version of its own emotional state in the crudest possible form. Unlike the other rules, it is compulsory, if you waver and  fail to express your part of the moral panic you will be hunted down and attacked.

Rule 10 – Ninja Turtle syndrome

This requires you to run stories which are being widely publicised elsewhere, even if those stories clearly lack merit (based on parents having to give in when their kids got picked on at school for not having Ninja Turtles).

Nick Davies’ idea of flat earth news owes a lot to Herman and Chomsky’s ‘propaganda model’ in Manufacturing Consent. The basic premise is that due to increased corporate ownership and focus on profits (with associated redundancies, cost-cutting and targets) journalists are no longer able to check stories like they used to. Combine this with a reduction in the quality of the wire services and increased PR and you end up with stories that are false being widely believed and reported as true – ‘flat earth news’.

The above was lifted from here

7 Jade

Download The Blinded Observer, an excerpt from Flat Earth News here

The Blinded Observer

Something important happened to the Observer in the build up to the invasion of Iraq (rejection of stories that there were no WMDs). While the paper was engaged in publishing a sequence of high profile, high volume falsehoods about the alleged threat from Iraq, some of which went far beyond false claims that were made in other media. As the deadline drew nearer the paper declared its support for the war. This was a paper which historically had positioned itself to the left of centre and had taken some pride in its willingness to swim against the mainstream, to confront the power elite if that is what its principles demanded. Famously the paper had stood out against the British invasion of Suez in 1956. Yet this paper which had thrived on scepticism was seduced into accepting unproven and extravagant claims; this flagship of the left was towed along in the wake of a determinedly right wing U.S. government on this crucial long running story. The essential role of journalism, to tell the truth, was compromised.

Purchase Flat Earth News

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Samantha Asumadu is a filmmaker and the founder of Media Diversified. Find her on Twitter @honestlyAbroad

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2 replies

  1. Here are two possible counters for the news bloggers or news sites:

    1) Find a niche. When you stick to a certain niche, your readership and the subjects of your reports and articles will always know what to expect from you. In my opinion, when you do this, all the rules in this article — except for 6 — go out the window.

    2) Go local/regional. Steer away from generalized or globalist pieces. For two reasons: Better engagement with your community (support goes more evenly both ways) and you can be more committed to the truth, since you too are most likely affected.

    Like

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