Academic study: SKWAWKBOX, other left media streets ahead of MSM on journalistic standards

mrc cover.png
The cover image of the media report

Last week, the SKWAWKBOX published details of a landmark academic study of mainstream media (MSM) journalism around the supposed issue of ‘Labour antisemitism’.

The report identified ninety-five serious, “systematic” failings in the methods and reporting of an array of titles and broadcasters, with the BBC News channel and the Guardian ranking as badly as, or even worse than, rags like the S*n and Mail in some areas. An “overwhelming source imbalance”, hostile treatment of dissenting witnesses while extreme views got a free ride, failure to provide right of reply and other complete breakdowns of good journalistic practice abounded.

MSM articles and programmes on the issue were routinely misleading and often fundamentally inaccurate. The report concluded that:

a systematic failure to both identify contentious claims, as well as check their veracity [and that] these findings warrant urgent attention from journalists, editors, policymakers and activists alike.

The report was unsurprisingly attacked by right-wing media, but its findings were supported in a letter to the Guardian signed by figures such as Noam Chomsky, Ken Loach, Yanis Varoufakis and an array of academics and activists.

The independent left media

What was not clear at the time is that the study also examined the independent media – both left and right – and found none of the inaccuracies common in the mainstream media.

Report author Dr Justin Schlosberg, of London’s Birkbeck University, spoke at length to the SKWAWKBOX about his findings. He had damning words for the MSM, describing the failed output of right-wing tabloids on the antisemitism issue as,

almost indistinguishable from the far right media such as Breitbart or Order-Order…professional news outlets are not providing an antidote to disinformation.

By contrast, “leftist” independent media are “often unfairly and lazily lumped together with” alt-right outlets by media keen to portray them as equivalents.

But Schlosberg found a huge difference between MSM/alt-right output on the antisemitism issue and that of the new left media:

What was very clear is that while leftist sites such as SKWAWKBOX, Canary and Evolve Politics may also have an imbalance of sources, it’s in a way that is entirely in line with their explicit editorial position of providing a corrective to the distortions of mainstream coverage.

But in terms of inaccuracies and the kinds of reporting failures that we broadly categorised as misleading, we found next to none of that in the left-wing independent publications.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

It’s an obvious and – as Dr Schlosberg describes above – lazy tactic by the Establishment to paint left-wing independent media as ‘fake news’ and to attack their journalistic standards.

But now a rigorous academic study has found that what supporters of the ‘new left media’ have contended all along – that on a crucial issue, the mainstream media were in fact the fake news, abandoning proper journalistic standards.

That this was done in pursuit of an agenda seems beyond contention.

The independent left media, on the other hand, while honest about their political and editorial position, were both accurate and fair.

If you want to support good journalism, support the new left media.

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  1. Confirms what we here already knew, obviously.
    Maybe one day the population at large will be discriminating enough to recognise truthful, responsible and accurate reporting when they read it – but I’m not holding my breath 🙁

  2. The attacks by the establisment papers such as the Graun, Indy and the BBC is expected. Graun comments and twitter is riddled with people who were former readers or have cancelled their subs. Its only a matter of time until they put up a paywall.

    1. Interesting and very supportive letter ofCorbyn , Viner is a RW and a Breitbart Lover ffs

  3. I have never doubted that. It’s the reason why I shun MSM publications and only subscribe to SKWAWKBOX and Vox Political.

  4. Whilst the report is welcome and reassuring, it’s findings are not new. I have been involved in the labour/left movement since the mid 50’s it was the same then, it is not the role of MSM to inform the public with truthful balanced journalism but to control with misinformation and lies.
    The internet offers hope in terms of breaking this control.

  5. Our greatest concern should be over the biassed reporting from the BBC, our national broadcaster, paid for and funded by us to provide fair and balanced coverage.

    The BBC is a little more devious than some of the other outlets. Rather an always trying to overtly discredit the left, it often practices bias by omission or by constantly wheeling out fake left supporters to speak for it.

    1. I agree. BBC most heavily biased and influential with TV 24 hour news and main bulletins, and current affairs slots and then Radio. This has been pointed out by the report. At least ITV News is prepared to be a little more feisty and cynical….better than BBC. C4 News has been dreadfully slanted and wrong on Corbyn and on Labour and anti-Semitism.

    2. For those mystified by the BBC’s role in the AS farce, Margaret Hodge’s daughter is deputy editor of BBC 6 & 10pm news, whose influence is depressingly widespread. It is an outrageous conflict of interest, the effects of which are all too obvious.

      Margaret Hodge’s daughter. This point can’t be stressed enough.

  6. The findings of this study do not surprise me re MSM and NLM although I find it’s not so clear cut when it comes to foreign policy, there are conservative journalists doing great work along with left leaning/Socialist ones. Many of those reporting on the ground or critically of UK/NATO/allies on foreign affairs, R or L, are pushed to the side lines or out of British/western MSM completely including the likes of the great John Pilger.

  7. John Pilger is an icon.. And Skwawkbox has helped me lately, whilst I worry about threats of poverty, to maintain some hope. The mainstream media contrives to keep us all fearful and despondent. A motivated, unified and confident working class is the last thing the establishment wants.

  8. You know this,we know this but the majority of the public don’t. How do we get if out there?

    1. Excellent question. Cleft stick and there lies the problem. Some like Steve below would not have anything to do with mainstream media, but mainstream media is what ‘the public’ watch and read. My experience is that despite 50,500 members of the Labour party, about two thirds of whom rally behind the current leadership, we may be able to organise conferences but are not good at developing media that can take on the MSM at their own game and provide a good enough alternative. Skwawkbox is not that alternative but does what it can and is incredibly hard work requiring working late into the night..
      One of the reasons is how fantastically expensive it is to rund as TV station or newspaper. Advertising can challenge the lefts values in a capitalist world. It all requires too much compromise! Another reason is that it is a full time job for quite a few people covering complex issues -, paying news agencies to cover worldwide news as well as domestic news, a string of staffers, and freelancers, and legal cover, pensions and expenses for phone, travel etc.,to be done properly. Anything less and the large number of people required won’t do a good enough job to offer the alternative required, and won’t commit to it for very long. It is a non starter unless a multi millionaire was to fund it. Oxymoron that idea? Undoubtedly. JK Rowling is anti Corbyn and she gives to charities but not to Labour. and Lord Sainsbury supported Blair. Some other rich Labourite’s funds were drained by funding the New Statesman (the staggers as it is know for good reason) and that is only a small weekly that tends towards Progress. Evolve, Novara, Skwak and Canary stagger on on very small donations from those who can and care. Its not enough. Nowhere near. .

  9. MSM antisemitic attack is not laziness or poor standards of journalism, it is a deliberately orchestrated assault on Socialism & anyone or any Party that dares criticise the 51st State of USA.

  10. I haven’t even tried to find out how the Tories infiltrated, blackmailed or bought the BBC but it’s clear that it happened – in opposition we can only hope some whistleblower will one day spill the beans.
    An Electoral Commission with fangs instead of milk teeth would have a mandate to root out those who hand democracy to the 1% for a pat on the back.
    Offering rewards and protection to the workers forced by circumstance and corrupt laws to keep their media masters’ secrets would, if it could be done, definitely yield interesting and damning results.
    The bias we see proves the existence of those secrets and the incompetence we see proves they’re not smart enough to have completely covered their tracks.

    Maybe if Labour loudly and publicly asked every University (media studies and statistics?) student body to collate and present independently for publication the existing evidence of every instance of MSM bias the resulting documents would sway more undecideds than Labour’s protests?

    That’s if you guys don’t like the Labour TV channel idea and don’t think students studying film/TV would appreciate the opportunity of working on the channel – or make a decent fist of it?

    Why not ask our young supporters to do what they’re good at and at the same time help them build their careers?

    1. I haven’t even tried to find out how the Tories infiltrated, blackmailed or bought the BBC but it’s clear that it happened

      You don’t need to. It’s common knowledge that since it’s establishment the common denominators have been (And still are) as follows:

      Parasitical, profligate nepotists, and,
      Taxpayer subsidised pederasts.

      1. Toffee, I meant the emails, internal memos, meeting minutes, overheard and recorded asides etc. – I’m as aware as anyone that they share schools, views & aims and usually there won’t be a record because it was decided at some dinner party, gentleman’s club, the polo, the fucking palace or wherever… I just don’t believe for a second they’re master criminals who never make mistakes.

        Poetrymuseum, I’m aware of the revolving door leading to the well-worn path between BBC and CCHQ.
        My argument is that twenty new academic reports would carry far more than twenty times the weight of one – that they’d be impossible for the MSM to ignore or dismiss – and that they’d convince many more of the floaters of how biased the MSM really are.

    2. I’ll attempt a brief analysis. There have been recent changes. Broadcasting has itself changed because of social media. But the Establishment has the power. MI5 always vetted appointees at every level. In the 60s and 70s, some slipped under the radar (particularly in Drama Plays and series. Ken Loach Roy Batterbsy Tony Garnett and Ken Trodd). Now it is more complicated as arts and drama, comedy tend to be bought in from independent production companies. There is a whole other thesis to be written about the link between good ‘art’ ,drama and comedy ( whether it reflects or leads social change), Anyway, staffers are in management, and on news editorial . Almost to a man and woman they are non-active Tories, who you can see from their behaviours and CVs have a background of rightwing positions. We can see Murdoch appointees at the highest levels of news management. They filter and reject other appointees. Friends of friends are brought in. The establishment is in and out of each others dining rooms. Blair flew to Murdochs island conference in 1997. Cameron was best friends with Rebbekah Brooks. At the BBC, an establishment Tory became the DG after the Jimmy Savile fiasco. It is beyond old school tie. Mandelson and the shadow comms agency in the 80s faced a barrage of relentless undermining bias against Kinnock.(Yes you may well want to join them now in condemning Kinnock, but back then it was vile relentless abuse, although not as sinister as the Israel lobby stuff we are currently experiencing). In retrospect, the subsequent Blairite plan seems to have been to move Labour so far to the right that the joins could not be seen. Become ‘them’ in other words. But when you recall that Jeremy Paxman who was the Newsnight anchor for decades is a ‘One Nation Tory’, that puts things in perspective for you about the BBC. Any TV Channel in this country is governed by regulators under law who would need to be given a licence. Labour TV as a digital channel on Freeview say would need to meet those criteria. The left has always had to produce its own ‘ organs’ of communication and pay for them. Often these have just warred with each other as the left outside of Labour tend to, and the left within Labour try not to.. But democratic parties argue and this arguing is exploited negatively by the MSM far more than the same phenomenon is exploited within Toryism (even with Brexit which is muddled on left and right). That not only explains the right of the PLPs behaviour but shows them up for what they are: treacherous, Tories in disguise and jobs-for- life apparatchiks. We need our own social media organs like this to counteract, our own newspaper, and our own ethical journalism and journalists. Long way to go……

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