The corporate media descended into farce on Tuesday 13 October. Because the public were once again subjected to the worst kind of journalism. It’s one where supposed professional reporters are little more than Tory lapdogs.
Client journalism in full swing
As ‘Client Journalism’ Expert pointed out, several corporate journalists shared similar tweets. It was a comment by one of those now-infamous ‘government sources’. The quote was in response to Labour leader Keir Starmer’s press conference:
Looks like they’re all indulging in a bit of client journalism tonight pic.twitter.com/QOMx47yABg
— Spooky ‘Client Journalism’ Expert (@ClientJournoExp) October 13, 2020
“Client journalism” is where the government uses reporters for its own agenda. Peter Oborne wrote about this for openDemocracy. He noted an example where both BBC and ITV political editors Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston quoted an unnamed government source in 2019. Here the news they put out was, as Oborne said, “fake” with no basis in fact. But the two corporate journalists pushed it anyway.
Oborne explained why this happens. He said corporate media outlets:
yearn for privileged access… And they are prepared to pay a price to get it.
This price involves becoming a subsidiary part of the government machine. It means turning their readers and viewers into dupes.
This client journalism allows Downing Street to frame the story as it wants. Some allow themselves to be used as tools to smear the government’s opponents. They say goodbye to the truth. Social media has provided new ways of breaking the boundaries of decent, honest journalism.
The situation with Starmer and those tweets is another perfect example.
Doing the Tories’ bidding
Evolve Politics noticed that Tory Party chair Amanda Milling shared the quote:
And then Labour failed to vote for any action….
Keir Starmer is a shameless opportunist playing political games in the middle of a global pandemic.
He says he wants a national lockdown but he’s refusing to vote for targeted restrictions in areas that need them most. https://t.co/GolDESOfsz
— Amanda Milling (@amandamilling) October 13, 2020
And this is exactly the problem.
Corporate journalists are effectively doing the Tories’ work for them. Let’s be real: Starmer is a mess as Labour leader. But it’s the Tories’ job to call him out – like Milling did. It’s not the job of Westminster journalists to franticly report ‘sources’ slagging Starmer off. This also works the other way round. Journalists shouldn’t be quoting unnamed Labour sources either. This kind of playground gossip and ‘he said, she said’ is not public interest journalism. It’s creating stories for the sake of creating stories. And to these journalists, it’s all a game.
Oborne said that he “found it hard” to get his openDemocracy article into “print”. Presumably, he meant the corporate press. Which sums up the issue best. Corporate media in the UK has become little more than an arm of government. Take the scandal over Kuenssberg’s ‘postal votes’ comments during the 2019 election. Or her and Peston apologising for sharing a fake story over a Labour activist punching a Tory advisor. Because in both these cases, they cited unnamed sources.
Yet corporate journalists carry on like there’s not a problem. They have permanently scarred the UK media’s credibility As Oborne said in 2019:
British political journalists have got chillingly close to providing the same service to Boris Johnson that Fox News delivers for Donald Trump.
The media has now crossed that line. And it’s unlikely to come back from it.