In Britain, it is tempting to say that the papers’ many defects stack up to such an extent that they wouldn’t be missed. A complete submission to the idea that news is entertainment and entertainment is news; a pack mentality and the idea that only things which are being already covered in the media are worth covering; a general retreat from the principles of serious journalism, investigative journalism, and a horror of complicated ideas; amnesia; a default setting to knee-jerk populism: none of these things is a virtue. But the UK newspaper industry is an energetic and cacophonous thing, one which sees a big part of its role as being to make the government’s life as difficult as possible. Because of the way our constitution is skewed towards the incumbent government, for a lot of the time the press is a de facto form of opposition. New Labourites would routinely refer to the editor of the Daily Mail as ‘the most powerful man in the country’. That was an exaggeration, and it described something whose effects were almost entirely malign; and yet we would miss this countervailing force if it were gone. Governments are constantly accumulating more power: one of the most glaring trends in the last 30 years of political history is that all governments arrogate more power to themselves, even when (it’s tempting to say ‘especially when’) their ideology is overtly right-wing and explicitly anti-government. The press is just about the only force which resists that, and for that reason alone it is now a necessary component of modern democracy. Without it our democracy would head the way that papers themselves risk heading, and become hollowed out, with the external apparatus of democratic machinery but without the informed electorate which the press helps create. And one beauty of the current arrangement is that it functions without the press having to be well-meaning or high-minded.
E dai noi? Mi sono chiesto se anche in Italia il giornalismo sia ancora una forza che resiste (perché affermare che sia l’unica mi pare forse eccessivo) e se, nonostante tutti i suoi difetti (per altro mi pare molto simili a quelli denunciati da Lanchester) contribuisca a creare un elettorato informato. Per quanto mi riguarda sono molto dubbioso, soprattutto alla luce degli ultimi venti anni e passa. Cosa ne pensate?
Quello sopra è passaggio di un articolo di John Lanchester sul futuro della stampa pubblicato col titolo Let us pay. Parla di cartaceo Vs. online, preoccupazioni e possibili soluzioni. (apparso anche sul numero 879 di Internazionale in versione integrale e tradotta)