Newspapers are generally useful for two purposes – they tell us what has happened, and they provide some information about what is going to happen. The ‘what has happened’ piece is rather obvious – it’s what most of us think of as “news”. The future information is usually limited to events that will occur in the near future, weather predictions, and reviews of events that are ongoing, allowing you to make up your mind as to whether you’d like to attend or not.
In this country, I’ve noticed something somewhat disturbing. The historic part of the news is slipping in to the future part of the news. It’s almost as though the press has realised that they’re really rotten at predicting the weather, so perhaps they’d better branch out into other areas of prediction.
And the one that they’ve chosen is the political speech. In my experience of other countries, what a politician will say in a particular speech (the Budget speech, the State of the Nation address, etc) is usually only found out as he or she delivers it. And this, in my opinion, is how it should be. But over here, it seems that the press obtains a copy of the speech in advance, and they go on and tell you all about it in the morning paper.
The weird thing is that the language is all phrased in the future tense. It’s “Mr Cameron will say … ” and “Mr Balls will outline his plans for …” and “Mr Osborne will argue that …”. To me, there’s a fine line between a politician being independent, and him appearing to be independent, and this crosses it. Particularly in the current climate, where the scandals of politicians being in bed with the media are like orange on a naartjie.
To be fair, though, occasionally a politician will change his mind between the morning and the delivery of the speech, and then the newspapers have to do a bit of a backtrack. “Contrary to expectations, Mr Balls did not reveal the full details of his plans, but … “. I’m not sure whether this is just a little game they play to show that they’re really independent after all, not puppets on strings.
But we’re smart enough to see through all that – after all, we know the truth: it’s in the newspapers every morning!