Once investigative reporting on television was incredibly insightful and provided a great service, often revealing those taking advantage of others or companies and people breaking the law. Today it’s filled with scaremongering and sensationalisation, like a tabloid newspaper its role is to make an attention grabbing programme that will fill the audience with excitement and fear, making them return and allow the programme to grab headlines.
The ITV programme Tonight has really turned that into an art form and led the way and now Channel 4’s Dispatches has gone the same way. I’ve actually just turned off the TV and walked away after watching the first assumption filled and over sensationalised The Supermarket That’s Eating Britain.
The facts I saw in the first half were that after a planning application was successful Tesco built a store bigger than allowed, there are people on the board that are influencial in the Government, that they are the biggest and fastest growing supermarket chain, that they supply loads of products at cheap prices, and that they record information on people from their clubcards.
That was all, but the programme managed to throw in people’s wild accusations and misinformation to make it sound like Tesco was ruling the Government and collecting secret data on their customers.
I have a clubcard and I’m asked no more information about myself than I am for any of my credit cards or with any other store I shop with, all of carry out exactly the same practice of monitoring and profiling their customers.
There was no mention of what these board members now do in the Government and what influence they still have, other than things such as “knows all of Whitehall” kind of statements.
Then we have an MP who managed to claim, without actually saying it and with loads of help from the voiceover, that Tesco influenced the local paper to say bad things about him. Oh my lord, an MP being written about in the local paper? Who would ever believe! What’s more interesting is that the story was about the MP refusing another Tesco store in the region, thus stopping X amount of jobs from being created. Isn’t that called the truth? Minutes before they were making it sound like they had gathered secret information about his private life or some such thing.
It’s this growing news sensationalisation that is becoming too much a part of every news source and is blowing everything out of proportion and scaremongering their audiences.
Highlighting certain issues while ignoring others, saying two different facts together in the same segment or statement and letting you assume that they are connected without them saying so, letting people voice their opinions and mixing them with other facts to make them all sound factual, the whole area of investigative reporting is really getting out of hand.
There’s another issue here that I really get irate about, and that’s the way Britain builds someone or something up, shouting its good points and ignoring its bad as it goes, being openly proud and supportive of it, and then when its success gets to certain level, we tear it down and rip it apart in anyway we can. We see it with pop and film stars, with companies, with business people, it happens all the time.
With this style of reporting we get one side of the story, and a biased image. The whole point of the article or program is set up front, and to compete with other stories, gain an audience and make headlines, they have to jazz it up and make it more compelling and frightening.
Reporting could present both sides of a story, show an unbiased view and present the facts for your conclusion, and if there’s nothing scary and headline grabbing to come out of it, then perhaps there’s no real story in the first place.
Oh, and don’t say some rubbish that “so and so declined to comment”, well if they did why not turn that investigative reporting into looking into their side of the story? Too busy looking to the negative and trying to build the case against and just relying on a comment from the other side?
Modern TV journalism has taken an amazing downturn, and you can even see it in the news every day, even every minute of the day. News programmes are fighting for viewing figures just like Eastenders and Coronation Street, and they’ll win it any way they can.