Davies on Spin

June 11, 2009

Journalist Nick Davies commenting before the House of Commons Select Committtee for Culture Media and Sport earlier this year on the death of both journalism and Ian Tomlinson:

We are allowing government departments and corporations to write the news. Wholly or mainly PR means that they have written the press release, we have taken it, made a phone call, tacked a quote on the end and put it in the paper. That is a very frightening thing when that happens. If you want to understand why we got the story on weapons of mass destruction wrong, why we misreported the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20, that is what it is about; we rewrite press releases that interested parties put out serving their interests. Celebrity news is driven by their part of the PR machine, putting out cheap, easy to run “sexy” stories with pictures which fill more space and sell papers.

And Roy Greenslade, from the same session:

I was at a conference in Derry a couple of years ago when a PR stood up and said that he was disgusted with the run down of journalism and he often wrote PR handouts that had appeared verbatim in the press. He held up in front of everyone at the conference a page about which he was disgusted when it happened; he said, “They even ran my byline“.

And Davies again (this is bizarre):

…when the book [Flat Earth News] came out there were several attempts to do that to me. I suddenly found myself on the receiving end of really dishonest journalism. I had to really, really fight to stop a grotesque sexual smear about my wife going into the paper. Part of what helped me was that I have never had a wife. It was just bonkers. I finally only stopped that story going into the paper because I tape recorded the conversation with the reporter in which he acknowledged that the fact that I did not have a wife probably meant that the story was not true. At the end of the day the editor said, “I am going to run it anyway with your denial”. That is not good enough. I said, “If you run that story I will publish the tapes in which your own reporter admits that the story is not true” and then he backed off.

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