Enquirer edited by Vicky Featherstone, John Tiffany and Andrew O'Hagan

Contact Us

Friday Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 16 November 2012
This fascinating piece, based on interviews with leading figures fron the contemporary newspaper industry by Paul Flynn, Deborah Orr and Ruth Wishart, gave a penetrating insight into the pros and cons of the media today.
Performed by a six-strong cast, including Maureen Beattie, John Bett, James Anthony Pearson, Gabriel Quigley, Billy Riddoch and Hywel Simmons, this drama took the form of a series of exchanges between media professionals of various levels, including editors, columnists, leader writers and reporters.  Some of the arguments advanced were familiar enough: contemporary journalism has been degraded to such an extent that reporters are considered little more than vermin.  This is perhaps unfair, as there are several members of the profession with a genuine desire to seek out the truth behind a story "in the public interest."  However the revelations emerging from the Leverson inquiry have largely removed this notion from the public consciousness.
There is no doubt that journalism has changed, with the decline of the print media and the emergence of online platforms.  Stories are now more instantly spread round the globe, while newspapers such as the Daily Mail have employed legions of techno-wizards to ensure that their online site receives as many hits as possible - even though many of the stories are of little or no interest to British readers.  The Huffington Post in America has more readers than the Washington Post, even though they do not pay their contributors one cent.
In this kind of world, the future of traditional journalism seems bleak - unless people are prepared to write for more specialist outlets which, while not attracting the mass readerships of yore, would nonetheless sustain a loyal audience.
In truth, however, as I listened to the production, I couldn't help thinking of Sidney Lumet's great film Network (1976), in which Peter Finch played an old-time newscaster exhorting his audience to rise up and revolt against the tide of blandness emerging from the cathode tube.  No one listened to him, of course; they just thought he had lost the plot.  Thirty-six years later many old-style journalists are expressing similar fears, which might suggest that fears for the media's demise might be timeless.  Perhaps the modes of communication are just changing.