Does the media report rail stories accurately

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by Ken H, 29 Nov 2018.

  1. Ken H

    Ken H Member

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    I would argue not

    1. Very quick to blame Northern and Thameslink for the may timetable fiasco with no mention that the main cause was Network Rail being late with the timetable.

    2. Blaming the TOC's for the DOO dispute, when it was a DfT policy, and was written in franchise agreements.

    3. Going along with 'Nationalising the railways' line from politicians when actually 75% of the railway is nationalised already.

    I am sure there are plenty more examples....
     
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  3. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    Also good if posters here could be accurate. Your view on 1 is far too simplistic, on 2 the TOC's shouldn't get a free pass as they are active participants and the employers of the staff in dispute and your statement in relation to 3 is debatable.
     
  4. daikilo

    daikilo Established Member

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    "The media" covers a huge range of communication channels including thie one. If what you are looking for is instant info when something happens then you should accept that any "analysis" may be incomplete or even wrong. At the other extreme you have e.g. monthly magazines like Modern Railways who are likely to publish only when they have the full story, and even then read the selected words carefully.

    That said, I agree that certain news outlets either don't bother about seeking background facts pr appear to have their own agenda which may have little or nothing to do with rail per se. Personally I avoid them.
     
  5. mrcheek

    mrcheek Established Member

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    In general, I would say "no". Far too often, when theres a major BBC article, we will have a thread on it here pointing out all the errors. Same with anything in most of the major national newspapers. Makes me wonder how accurate the media is on other subjects.....
     
  6. a_c_skinner

    a_c_skinner Member

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    Less importantly how can I stop BBC TV in the North using a picture of some 3rd & 4th rail electric track as its image when it has news about rail locally? They used a picture of a 377 the other day too.
     
  7. Mathew S

    Mathew S Member

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    You can't. Most journalists won't know - or even notice - the difference nor, in the vast majority of instances, will it have any impact on the story.

    To answer the more general question: yes, a lot of the media coverage of rail issues could be better. There are a few reasons why it isn't:
    1. Time. Most journalists don't have enough time in their day to do their jobs properly. Cuts of 90% or even more to staff in newsrooms are the reality in my business, yet we're expected to create more and more content. Accuracy suffers.
    2. Expertise. There are hardly any expert transport correspondents, so you've got inexpert staff making do with the information they're given by industry press offices. This is a problem because...
    3. TOC, DfT, Network Rail, and (especially) the RMT are totally inept when it comes to dealing with the press; so often there's hardly any accurate information to actually use as the basis for a story.
    As a journalist, I would love nothing more than to devote time and effort to every story I produce to make it 100% accurate and as good as it can possibly be. Sadly, that's impossible; and there are more important places to put our limited time and resources than public transport.
     
  8. johntea

    johntea Established Member

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    A lot of media stories these days aren’t even generated by journalists, they’ll just see what is trending on Facebook / Twitter and story done! (You often see journalists tweeting for permission to use a tweet!)

    Although back in around 2005 I once posted a YouTube video of the school sports hall next door to my house on fire, the next morning I had BBC Look North turning up at my doorstep wanting permission to use the footage! My 15 minutes of fame...sadly they didn’t pay me a million pounds for the rights, in fact they paid me a big fat £0 :(
     
  9. SamYeager

    SamYeager Member

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    I would suggest raising a complaint about misleading and erroneous coverage with them although the BBC doesn't go out of its way to make this easy. I believe they need to formally reply and record this so they have an incentive to improve. Do this each time this happens specifying the programme, date and approximate time and it's more likely they'll make sure they have a more appropriate library picture to use in future especially since this is a not a contentious subject.
     
  10. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    If the question is "do all media publications report accurately" the answer is no.

    If the question is "do some media publications report accurately" the answer is yes.

    'The media' encompasses literally any form of media; the web, magazines, newspapers, TV, etc are all forms of media, and each form of media has many individuals and organisations publishing content.

    You may as well ask 'Do humans report accurately' ;)
     
  11. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    It.is.a.file.picture!

    It doesn't matter. It is used to illustrate the story.
    I agree on points 1 and 2. I suspect 3 is a symptom of differing requirements from press interaction RMT aside. The TOC/NR are really no different to any other large business pushing out press releases. They are designed to land the information they want and they know many media outlets (especially print and by extension their on line arms) will simply reproduce that release almost verbatim. Job done. All round.

    Reporters want to get behind the story and find the real story. Is the response from a TOC to that kind of approach not the same as any company: Block, parry, deflect, manage, spin?
     
  12. ComUtoR

    ComUtoR Established Member

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    Because the image it supposed to refer to the theme of the article, not the specifics. Most people would make a simple association between picture of a train and an article about trains. If your scanning the newspaper and see a picture of a train it may interest you so it draws you in.

    If it was an article in an industry magazine or publication then you would expect the correct image.
     
  13. DanDaDriver

    DanDaDriver Member

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    The media (print media and news) tends to go for the easiest and laziest route. Confirmation bias.

    Everyone knows that every train in the UK is always late.

    It will always be dangerously overcrowded.

    Fares are always extortionate and cheap fares are far too complex to find.

    And every so often long suffering commuters must endure months of misery while Network Rail do improvement works which only benefit fat cat TOC bosses.
     
  14. Mathew S

    Mathew S Member

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    The trick to running an effective press office is working with annoying journalists like me to help us produce stories that paint the company in the best possible light. The approach most TOCs take is one of total non-cooperation, even on positive stories. This is, of course, counterproductive for both them and us; especially since we're going to run the story anyway, with or without their cooperation.

    Often it's not the press officer's fault themselves. One TOC press office I regularly deal with (guess who?) are so hamstrung by their company directors there's not a lot they can do. I actually feel sorry for their press officers who, by and large, do their best with the lousy hand they've been dealt.

    There are honourable exceptions, Virgin Trains' press office being one, but overall, TOC press offices are truly terrible.
     
  15. Essan

    Essan Member

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    I would say railway stories are reported about as accurately in the mainstream media as most other stories. So not very accurately at all. Though probably more accurately than some weather stories ..... (especially in the Express!) The key to reading any story in a newspaper these days is working out which facts have been conveniently omitted in order to generate a bias.
     
  16. Ken H

    Ken H Member

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    I suppose i meant mainstream media. national dailies and TV/radio news and current affairs
    I am sure specialist press like Modern Railways is accurate.
     
  17. Bertie the bus

    Bertie the bus Member

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    I agree almost entirely with this and would add point 1 in the OP is completely untrue. Northern refused media interviews initially so it is completely their fault if they didn’t get their side of the story across. Once Northern did start speaking to the media Network Rail’s part was repeated every time a story was broadcast.
     
  18. Ken H

    Ken H Member

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    I thought it was the journalists job to report accurately having done at least some investigating. If not why not just have a web site of images of press releases. They should not rely on Northern telling them about franchising commitments.
    And anyway, TOC's are in awe of the Dft because they know if they upset the civil servants they may not win franchises later.
     
  19. jfollows

    jfollows Member

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    The latest edition of Modern Railways promotes the myth of the plan to four-track the line between Manchester Piccadilly and Deansgate, which has only ever been wishful thinking as far as I know, but gets talked up all the time.

    The latest edition of RAIL tells us that there's no overhead wire under Steventon Bridge and that trains therefore have to drop their pantographs before going underneath it.

    Anyone can make mistakes of course. Including me!
     
  20. Bertie the bus

    Bertie the bus Member

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    How can they report accurately if the company won't engage? The franchise agreement is several hundred pages long, means nothing to virtually anybody and is redacted anyway.
    Pure fantasy.
     
  21. GRALISTAIR

    GRALISTAIR Established Member

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    Fake news?
     
  22. al78

    al78 Member

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    https://effectiviology.com/straw-man-arguments-recognize-counter-use/
     
  23. al78

    al78 Member

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    More likely they are trying to get a story out quickly before there is time to find out every necessary detail, because finding all the facts is often difficult and time consuming, especially if those providing the facts want to paint themselves in a positive light when they have cocked up. They also have to present a story to people who are not experts in the field, which means simplification, sometimes gross oversimplification.

    I'm guessing this from my experience of reading stories about weather or climate change.
     
  24. Mathew S

    Mathew S Member

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    It is. Ever tighter deadlines, combined with ever decreasing resources, make this very difficult to achieve.
    Exactly that. If I have 15 mins to write a story from scratch (not unusual) then I don't have time to go off anything other than the information I already have. For 99% of readers (in my case, on radio, listeners) a story which is "accurate enough" is sufficient. If I wrote reports with the level of detail some on this forum would like, my editor would have my head on a chopping block!
     
  25. Mathew S

    Mathew S Member

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    I don't understand the franchise agreement (yes, I have read it), so my listeners have no chance. Especially since most of them aren't interested in the first place. It's pointless trying to explain the intricacies of the railway to people who just want to know why their train to work/school/college/home was delayed, and what's being done (or not) about it. "Normal" people neither know, nor want to know, the ins and outs - and it would be a massive waste of my time trying to explain it to them.
     
  26. cuccir

    cuccir Established Member

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    I suppose the interesting question is perhaps whether rail stories are any more or less accurate than stories about other topic areas - my sense is that they might be less.

    I work in higher education and am a railway enthusiast. I'd suggest, from my knowledge of both, that while stories about higher education also tend to contain some inaccuracies and over-simplifications that I spot as an insider, there seem to be fewer than I spot in (mainstream) railway reporting.
     
    Last edited: 29 Nov 2018
  27. Ken H

    Ken H Member

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    maybe that explains the reasons newspaper circulations are falling off a cliff. Most daily nationals are losing 5-10% a year. None gaining. Its a downward spiral. less decent journalism leads to less copies sold, less revenue so less journalism.
    306,000 daily copies lost since July across the nationals.

    And the BBC needn't be smug. People are learning that they can get the content they want with Netflix and Amazon Prime - and you dont need a TV licence for that as long as you dont watch live TV or iPlayer.
     
  28. Mathew S

    Mathew S Member

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    Almost all journos have direct experience of higher education, hardly any of them have a knowledge of the railways. That direct experience makes accurate reporting much easier.

    The way to improve accuracy is for the industry to do more - much, much more - engagement with press and public to get factual information out there. The best (by some margin) example of this is the Royal Society's work on the Public Understanding of Science which has totally revolutionised how science stories are reported by the press and consumed by the public. Sadly, I fear the railway is too fragmented, fractious, and incestuous to do this kind of work at present.
     
  29. Mathew S

    Mathew S Member

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    Very true. There's a reason I - a radio journalist by trade - spend more of my time producing content for online (mainly Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp) than I do for the radio; it's because that's now where most people get their news.

    The changing ways people consume news, a revolution in the ad market (Google & Facebook), and the fact that people won't pay for journalism when they can get it for free are all huge challenges. There is a place for quality journalism and, I believe, there always will be. Where that place is, however, is another question altogether.
     
  30. Mathew S

    Mathew S Member

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    The key to getting accurate, unbiased reporting is not to read newspapers. There's a reason pretty much every journalist in the country gets their news from broadcasters (usually Sky, if I'm honest, much as I dislike them).
     
  31. cholsey-choose

    cholsey-choose Member

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    I wonder if this is because impartiality rules apply to broacasters, but not newspapers?

    OP, read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gell-Mann_amnesia_effect
     

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