Interest in my commentary on the Spin Cycles series appears to be waning as evidenced by the declining number of views. This may be because my writing is somewhat pedantic, which I recognize as a fault. But I like to think the indifference is more a function of my argument that the series -- so far -- has little new to say about public relations and the media.
Episode four, though, actually makes some worthy observations and heaves up a host of red flags about democracy. (If you are wondering what happened to episode three, the audio doesn't appear to be available. A rather odd technical glitch for Canada's public broadcaster don't you think? Once CBC gets its act together, I'll comment.) Focusing on political spin, Basen and his interviewees argue that a contracting news cycle, all-news channels with plenty of dead air to fill, shrinking newsrooms and writing for the front page rather than for accuracy have changed the relationship between reporters and political spinners. (In the field of politics at least the term "spin" is apt.)
As former BBC newsman Nigel Jones says journalists are no longer "judged on reliability nor on judgment but on the ability to deliver exclusive stories" . . . and I would add stories delivered quickly and certainly before rivals, whether corporate or professional. The new zeitgeist is fertile ground for political spinners who believe -- in the peerless words of Paul Rhodes (a Canadian spin master) -- that what they do is "arrange facts in a certain order so that you are more inclined to believe my version of the truth than my opponent's." It's an atmosphere in which being first is rewarded before being right or shrewd, an ethos in which the "source" is often the politician or party who has "favored" the reporter with a leaked revelation.
Political spin is a subject about which I know very little, at least from the inside. Never having been involved actively with a mainstream political party, I am only a cynical bystander or watcher (and great fan of the Allison Janney presidential press secretary character on the now defunct television show The West Wing). But I do find it surprising that reporters care so much about covering the posturing and transparent manipulation of fact and emotion of our politicians, even when not in an election fight. Political spin is a game in which the players think others care far more about its devices and demagoguery than they do.
I wonder what would happen if a politician gave a news conference, or offered a leaked exclusive, and no reporter cared. I wonder what would happen if reporters and editors stopped worrying about the imperative of speed and concentrated on playing the role of the Fourth Estate as defined by Carlyle.
I wonder if it will really matter for long in the new demos that is social media.