Sputnik: In your view, why was one of the biggest German media outlets not checking what its journalists were putting out?
Alan Bailey: It’s a combination of two aspects. Are the articles the journalist produces popular? Do they attract readers? If they do (as appears to be the case with Relotius) then why mess with a successful formula? And secondly, are the journalist's articles backing up the narrative the publication wishes to push? Again, yes, in this case. Anything outside the Liberal ‘soft-left’ viewpoint is called out as extremist and dismissed as niche and dangerous. Claas Relotius was a textbook case of both these and was over time given a free hand to write and say whatever he wished. He realised over time that this was the case and pushed his luck further and further until his luck ran out.
Sputnik: The allegations made against the journalist have already tarnished Der Spiegel’s reputation. In your view, what can be done by the newspaper to redeem its image?
Sputnik: There were already reports about growing distrust in the media with some German politicians claiming that mainstream journalism does represent the world as they see it. Does this case further worsen the situation?
Alan Bailey: For a start, it reinforces the view that mainstream media is a manipulator of opinion, not a provider of untarnished information. In the West, the vast, vast majority of publications only represent a narrow focus of political opinion. Some maybe to the right of centre, others to the left, but it is all a very homogenised centrist view of the world. The journalists they hire subscribe to this worldview and the owners of the publications have an interest in pushing this same worldview to their readership. The problem they have is that now our sources of information are not limited to a newspaper and TV news program, and the more the public gain access to alternative news sources, the more the mainstream media lose their grip on opinion.
Instead of attempting to address this, they have instead ‘doubled down’ on their message and attempted to exclude anything beyond this, at first by ignoring and devaluing it, and lately by attacking and claiming anyone with views not matching theirs is a dangerous extremist. The Relotius case will only hasten the decay in mainstream media trust and viewership.
Alan Bailey: What does this say about the journalism in the West in general? Kind of going back to what I said earlier. Journalism in the West has attempted to contain its readership within a narrow cone of roughly centrist thought. Backing up the views of TV news channels. It has ceased to challenge the status quo. It is incapable of looking at the other side of the discussion anymore… long before it's got to this, it is shouting down other opinions and disregarding them. In essence, the Cart is in front of the horse; the message is more important than the journalistic process.
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