As a result of watching various programmes about the Leveson Enquiry, I’ve recently had some discussions with people about newspapers. My point has been that surely people don’t vote according to how the newspapers suggest they should vote, so it doesn’t matter if a newspaper switches its political alliance. Surely people are not overly influenced by various things they may read in newspapers. Don’t we all realise that much of what is written in newspapers is rubbish? Are we so mindless that we are easily swayed by the newspapers?
I tend to read many more things that disagree with what I actually think, rather than things that agree with my views, and I don’t think that I’m influenced by the contrary arguments. And in any case, I believe that if you have a viewpoint, then you need to test it, by reading opposing viewpoints.
I enjoy and laugh at Jeremy Clarkson’s column in The Sunday Times, because his writing style is amusing, however I still think he’s a total right-wing boor. I also read and enjoy his car reviews, but would never buy a car that he liked.
But in the various discussions I’ve been having it was explained to me that newspapers can get to you in more subtle ways, and after thinking about this for a while, I agree. If you read something in a newspaper on a topic you know nothing about at all, then you may actually be swayed by what you read. I’ve seen this happen.
For example, the national newspapers tend to be very negative about social media, which they see as a threat to their business. Unfortunately, older people in particular seem to take this sort of thing on board, and say to me things like, “Oh, you’re not using Facebook are you? I hear they can gather all sorts of information about you.”
In the Sunday Times this week there was a negative article about Google. It explained how Google can gather information about you, and then direct adverts to you relevant to things you’ve been viewing. The funny thing was that this was presented by the newspaper as something negative, whereas it is obviously potentially very useful, and much better than the non-personalised adverts you get in newspapers.
In the Daily Mail on 18th June there was a dreadfully misleading article about Open Access. It was very poorly written and illogical in its conclusions, yet, if you don’t know anything about the subject, you might think that there is some substance in what was claimed.
I was impressed with Alma Swan’s response to that article which was published on the SPARC Europe website, and which goes through each point in turn and includes much more accurate information.
The big problem, of course, is that far more people probably read the Daily Mail article than will read what Alma Swan wrote.
I’ve enjoyed a few coffees with Alma in the past, at conferences. She’s a particularly nice natured and bright lady. What she writes deserves a wide readership.