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Monday, May 30, 2011

Candy floss journalism

I get contacted by lots of journalists and have developed a sixth sense for spotting the variety that know what they want to hear and if you aint saying it, will keep searching until they find somebody who does. This happened to me a few weeks ago.

I am not going to identify the article or the journalist. If somebody contacts me they deserve to remain anonymous.

What I can tell you are the sure signs of an article (about older people) that is written by somebody who knows the conclusions before putting phone to ear or finger to keyboard. Invariably the article ends up being mishmash of generalisations and stereotypes.

Here are the five sure signs that you are reading a candy floss article:

Sign 1. The journalist is ‘I’ centered and is attempting to generalize the population from their own narrow, and normally urban and advantaged circumstances. If there are lots of ‘I’s in the first 200 words then you are reading pure candy floss. This is made even worse if they are over-50 or approaching that age. Then the article often becomes a form of therapy.

Sign 2. Attempting to extrapolate the universe from exceptional personalities or selected cases. As shed loads of celebrities hit the 50-age mark then there are lots of people to choose. The connection between wealthy celebrity X and Bill Bloggs, out of work factory worker, other that they are both 60 years old is zilch.

Sign 3. Very few facts. I have found this sort of journalist either cannot or is unwilling to get to grips with reality. It is much easier to live in their little bubble and ignore the complexities the real world. Facts get in the way.

Sign 4. Using examples that nobody has heard about. If you look long enough you will find somebody, somewhere, who is doing something that supports your view of the world. The fact that it is totally unrepresentative doesn’t matter a jot.

Sign 5. Stuffed full of home spun homilies – “age is just a number” - “ I have never felt so young” – “a new phase of life” ……. All this stuff is pure boilerplate that is churned out to avoid having to think.

At best a candy floss article about ageing will at least be amusing but too often it is nothing more than self-indulgent twaddle. Dick Stroud

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