1.Everyone shall possess the right to freely express and publicise his thoughts in words, images or by any other means, as well as the right to inform others, inform himself and be informed without hindrance or discrimination 2.Exercise of the said rights shall not be hindered or limited by any type or form of censorship Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, Article 37.º

Campbell: Madeleine hysteria Sells


Alastair Campbell has lambasted the media's "culture of negativity", accusing newspaper and television outlets of sacrificing fairness and accuracy for speed and sensation.

Campbell, Tony Blair's former director of communications, said there had been a "significant fall in basic standards" in journalism despite the growth of traditional media's output and the publishing explosion on the internet.

He was also critical of coverage of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, accusing "most of the media" of getting "close to hysteria, and some have stayed there".

"It is an interesting paradox that while we have more media space than ever, complaint about the lack of healthy debate has never been louder, with fewer stories and issues being addressed in real depth in a way that engages large audiences," Campbell said today, delivering the Cudlipp lecture at the London College of Communication, in memory of the late Daily Mirror editor Hugh Cudlipp.

"In an era of more pages, more space, more access, more talk, there is less said and done that is truly memorable," Campbell added.

"The growth in scale has been the upside of change; the impact on standards the downside. The forces of technological change and intense competition have created a distorting tension between speed and accuracy. The pressures to get the story first, if wrong, are greater sometimes than the pressures to get the story right, if late."

He said: "There has been a shift to what may be defined as a culture of negativity which goes well beyond coverage of politics. Of course, the idea of news as something that someone, somewhere would rather not see published is a good one. But it is partial.

"When a prevailing wisdom takes hold that news is only news when it is bad for someone, and especially someone in power, then it narrows and distorts the view of the world."

He added that the "old editorial rhythms" that allowed facts to be checked and stories considered before publication had been lost.

While the media easily became bored with stories, there were some that drowned out coverage of anything else, he added, citing the disappearance of Madeleine McCann last year.

"It quickly became a commodity in which most of the media got close to hysteria, and some have remained there," Campbell said.

Alastair Campbell Lecture "The language of news assumes everyone is inside the media bubble sharing the same passing excitement of the anchor and the reporter in the field. Stories go into shorthand very quickly, based on an assumption that people have been following them closely, and in detail. The media gets bored with a story, often, before most members of the public are even aware of it. On the other hand, when the media gets fixated on a story, often because it senses the competition is, we will hear of nothing else. The McCann case is the best example. An interesting and important story, the stuff of every parent’s nightmare. But it quickly became a commodity in which most of the media got close to hysteria, and some have remained there. Let us not pretend the coverage was driven by concern for the child – there are many missing children – or compassion for the parents – certainly not once the mood shifted– or regard for the truth. It has been the worst example of recent times, on a par with coverage of Princess Diana, of some newspapers thinking the word Madeleine sells, and finding literally any old nonsense to keep her name in that selling position on the front. Mature, stable and fair it is not. Unfair and exploitative it is."

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