The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Not the one o'clock news

20 November 2017

Open Diary writes: Have you noticed that the news is no longer what it used to be? I don't mean that it's not good, or bad, or even predictable. After all, another home defeat and the inability to score is hardly a surprise, is it? It's just that the news is no longer what it was. These days the link between the words 'false' and 'news' no longer seems a paradox.

When I was a kid the news was how you found out what was happening in the world. My gran turned on this walnut-veneered radio set on the table in the window at one o'clock every day so that an update on the outside world would flood into our part of Cleethorpes. We didn't have a telly at the time, but in those days not many people did. So the news was a serious business. Big Ben struck one and then someone far away spoke gravely about what had happened in the world. Everyone listened carefully over lunch.

Serious events were announced. The king died, so the coronation happened, and my mum took me down Grimsby Road, and there was a procession with a girl in a white dress and a crown on her head on the back of a flat-top lorry in the wet. Britain had invaded Suez. I remember my gran shuddered at that and I realised later that was because the lad whose parents lived next door was in the Parachute Regiment. She had seen too many people not come back from two world wars.  That was when the news was the news.

But now the news isn't the news. Nowadays you watch it rather than listening to it, and the first thing you realise is that all too often it's mostly history rather than what happened this morning. The queen celebrates 70 years of marriage. It's 50 years since Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Next year it will be 20 years since we won at Wembley. Wait for the item on Look North in May 2018. It makes life easier for news journalists, of course. You don't have to find out what happened today; you can look up what happened 25, 50 or 70 years ago on Wikipedia and do a piece about its anniversary.

If it's not history it's advertising. Especially on the BBC, which really bugs me. I was brought up being told that the BBC was the best because it didn't have adverts and wasn't showing what commercial interests wanted. But nowadays the BBC news is full of adverts, and mainly they are for the BBC. All too often it's a trailer for some BBC show, like who is the next contestant on Strictly Come Dancing; or the scandal of private universities where you buy your essays from previous students, which will be exposed on Panorama tonight at 8:30 or catch it later on iPlayer.

And if it's not a history lesson or a trailer, it's speculation. It's not what has happened but what might happen based on someone's interpretation of events. Like all the EU workers are returning home because of Brexit, or Curtis Woodhouse is coming back to Town in a coaching role. Only neither of these things has happened, and more importantly neither is actually happening. The number of EU workers in the UK has just reached an all-time high. And it seems that Curtis Woodhouse is not – and seemingly never was – going to take on a coaching role with Town.

Oh well, I never believed it in the first place. It's just what happens when 'fake news' is the word of the year (even when there are two of them). Maybe you've grown a bit philosophical about this and started taking the news with a large pinch of salt. But then something comes up which makes me realise that not everyone takes that approach. So, presumably the director formerly known as the chairman is prone to expecting the news to be like the gospel.

It’'s like the excessive emphasis on getting the facts right, without realising that in the modern world, facts are less important than the broad sweep of the discourse of events. And that the more you deny something the more people believe it to have been true in the first place.

And that's how life is these fake news days. I read an article by a guy called Marvin Bower, who ran McKinsey, the management consultants. He says that "a leader is a person who sets attractive goals and has the ability to attract followers, or constituents, who share those goals. Above all, a leader must be trusted and respected. Trust between a leader and constituents opens up two-way communication, making it possible for them to realise their common goals." And, right now, this is the problem, because we are the constituents in this little monochrome world. Over-reaction and kneejerk responses mean that trust is a currency in short supply.

Bower says that the solution is that leaders need both qualities – which is what they tend to bring with them – and attributes, which they need to develop.
He provides a long list of attributes, which include sensitivity to people and to situations, and this is what could have been adopted in relation to the news last week.

Anyway, it's Swindon at home on Tuesday and then Barnet away next Saturday. I remember my dad taking me to home games against Swindon on Tuesday nights in the 1960s. They've not played us at home for ten years, when we won 1-0. That's the news for today.