Does the British press tend to reflect or shape public opinion? Discuss.

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Does the British press tend to reflect or shape public opinion? Discuss.

By Luke Marsh.

The Prime Ministers’ press secretary, Alastair Campbell, recently made a speech about the relationship between the printed press and broadcasting media, that urged broadcasters not to follow a news agenda created by the newspapers. He loved newspapers, he said, but there were things that they did not do that broadcasters should – and things that newspapers did that no one should do. The end result was gossip, trivia, a lack of proper explanation, a skewing of stories and a ‘delusion’ about what the country was interested in. The Government, and in particularly No 10, is a bit frustrated at the moment. It feels that its good news – such as what appears to be the extraordinary success of the New Deal in cutting youth unemployment – is completely ignored. At the same time, it has lost three ministers recently, amid classic journalistic feeding frenzies, and has endured a month of baiting over perks and flights. The Prime Minister has cause to be particularly miffed that he went to South Africa and made a very statesperson-like speech about when to intervene militarily, and all the British press could ask him about was Charlie Whelan (used to be Gordon Brown’s press secretary, now a newspaper columnist). Such examples clearly emphasise what the press is really about – catering for the masses. They need to sell papers and thus need to attract readers. This isn’t achieved through intricate detail, accuracy of purported events or deep insightful commentary, but instead through entertainment – a type often based on the spurious word of hacks.

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