Thursday, 9 September 2021

Media Quotes of the Week: From Russian trolls infiltrate newspaper comment sections to 200 health journals in joint warning on climate change

The Times [£] reports: "Pro-Kremlin trolls have been inserting Russian propaganda and disinformation in the reader comments sections of western news organisations, including The Times, researchers claim. A report has concluded that trolls used the comment sections of 32 prominent news websites across 16 countries to create a 'distorted picture of public opinion'. The comments, posted between February and April, were favourable to President Putin and against Britain, the US and other western allies. The researchers from Cardiff University were unable to definitively say who was behind the posts, but believe that they are 'indicative of a Russian state operation'. News outlets whose websites were repeatedly targeted included the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Times in the UK, Fox News and The Washington Post in the US, Le Figaro in France, Der Spiegel and Die Welt in Germany, and La Stampa in Italy."

Ian Burrell in the New Statesman on the the BBC's Secunder Kermani reporting from Afghanistan: "Bearded and often dressed in a long kurta shirt, Kermani blends easily with crowds in Kabul’s streets and bazaars. But his best reporting, notably interviews with grieving relatives of the Kabul airport atrocity who claimed that American soldiers fired on civilians in panic, is testimony to his ability to gain people’s confidence. 'He’s capable of swimming in a wider range of ponds than almost any other reporter I have come across,' says Ian Katz, his editor at Newsnight. 'That is his amazing capacity to rub along with people and win trust and respect'.”

Max Hastings in 
The Times [£] reviewing The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War by Washington Post journalist Craig Whitlock: "Whitlock is a gifted reporter, who with his newspaper deserves full credit for dragging so much evidence into the public domain. This is not a great book, because it lacks literary panache and penetrating analysis. It is, nonetheless, an impressive catalogue of follies and lies. What should shock British readers is that there is no possibility that our own government or courts will release comparable documents about our end of the disaster. We may have lost the art of winning wars, but global Britain can at least boast of its Olympic medal-worthy cover-ups."

Roger Mosey, former head of BBC Television News, in a letter to The Times [£]: "I am unequivocally in favour of free speech. I also believe that there should be a greater diversity of views in broadcast news. However, I am concerned by Ofcom’s ruling that Piers Morgan as the presenter of a news-based programme on a public service channel can give his unfettered opinions on the issues of the day. If Morgan was right to say what he did about the Duchess of Sussex, what was wrong with Emily Maitlis’s more tempered comments about Dominic Cummings? At the time, Ofcom said '[news] presenters should ensure that they do not inadvertently give the impression of setting out personal opinions or views' — and that is surely right. We do not want to hear what Huw Edwards or Julie Etchingham think of the day’s events, and nor should a news breakfast show on a major channel be dominated by the opinions of its presenters. That route leads us to the aggressive polarisation of the media seen in the United States, when the public need in these times is for accurate reporting and cool analysis."

Ex-editor BBC Political Programmes Rob Burley on Twitter:
"I’ve worked with @afneil and he’s a brilliant journalist. He’s never been about Fox News style journalism. If he is getting out of GB News - I don’t know - to avoid that sort of environment then that can’t be easy and is the right thing for him to do."
  • Owen Jones on Twitter: "I keep being bombarded with requests from @GBNEWS producers to go on their channel (obviously I say no or ignore). I’ve checked with other leftwing commentators - the exact same story. As their audience collapse they’re looking to us to save them with outrage clicks."

From The Times [£] obit on showbiz correspondent Donald Zec, who has died aged 102:
"Still not a bona-fide reporter, he decided to take his chance at the Daily Mirror. His first assignment was covering a nightclub fire in Soho, clacking out 200 words that began with the turgid introduction: 'Firemen were called to extinguish a blaze'. His news editor declared, 'This is shit', before handing it to an old hand who showed him the ropes: 'Clad only in her scanties, a blonde, 22-year-old nightclub hostess climbed along a 30ft parapet in a Soho fire last night to rescue her pet cat Timothy.' As Zec observed in the British Journalism Review: 'Here, in a single sentence of slick hyperbole, were all the elements of popular journalism — sex, heroism, drama and pet-worship'.”

Victor Pickard for the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) think tank: "In the wake of a global pandemic, democracies are newly sensitized to how local journalism provides critical information for vitally important issues, ranging from public health to conducting fair elections. But despite this new-found respect for the fourth estate, the newspaper industry has continued to implode, losing 57% of its employeesbetween 2008 and 2020, resulting in hundreds of closures and news deserts sprouting up across the country. Given that the devastation of local journalism will only continue, such glaring market failure should compel government intervention. Public goods — often understood as vital necessities in theory but rarely treated as such in practice — require public investments and protections from unfettered commercialism. Subjecting these services entirely to the market gradually leads to disinvestment over time. In other words, the journalism crisis is a human-made disaster. Allowing the market to drive local journalism into the ground is a political choice."

Ray Snoddy on Mediatel:
"They may only be the first falling leaves of a difficult autumn to come, but parts of the Brexit-supporting media are starting to show signs of responding to current post- Brexit realities. Gone are the uncritical promotions of the 'sunny uplands' and of the politicians who could not see a single disadvantage in leaving the European Union. Instead, the national newspapers who so enthusiastically campaigned for Getting Brexit Done, now have to face up to 'supply chain' difficulties that are leaving gaps in supermarket shelves and the global notoriety of the disappearing McDonald's milkshakes."

British Medical Journal reports: "More than 200 health journals have called on governments to take emergency action to tackle the 'catastrophic harm to health' from climate change. A joint editorial says that while recent targets to reduce emissions and conserve biodiversity are welcome, they are not enough and need to be matched with credible short and longer term plans. The editorial was published simultaneously on 6 September in 233 international titles including The BMJ, the Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, the East African Medical Journal, the Chinese Science Bulletin, the National Medical Journal of India, and the Medical Journal of Australia. The editorial says: 'As health professionals, we must do all we can to aid the transition to a sustainable, fairer, resilient, and healthier world. We, as editors of health journals, call for governments and other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course'.”


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