Simon Pegg had me clutching my sides and falling off my seat…the guy is hilarious. If you ignore the slightly crass moments involving miniature dogs dressed in human clothing (well, it is a Hollywood blockbuster after all), he absolutely nails a role that explores relevant issues about the kinds of stereotypes that surround journalists, and the problems that many journalists may encounter on their way to the 7th room or (forgive me ladies), the Big Boy’s jobs.

One fact is clear. The newspaper industry is losing readers. As Christopher Reiss, ex Political Editor of the Evening Standard, wisely pointed out, this has something to do with the Internet, but not everything.

In a 2000 Ipsos MORI census, journalists got the lowest vote of confidence with only 15% of people saying they trusted them. 15%!!  Painfully, this was even lower than politicians at 20%

But why so low?

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People pigeonholes journalists in two ways. The struggling, but deeply moral good guys vs. the backstabbing, money-orientated scum-bags, who would probably sell their own children to a Moroccan slave trade for a good scoop. The good guys face the decision between a penniless existence and joining the dark side.

How true a perception is this? Did the film hit the nail on the head or is it just indicative of stereotypical and harmful attitudes towards the media?

The film emphasises the shallowness of Hollywood and the people surrounding it. But what effect does celebrity interest and coverage have on hard news? Bunching different types of media together is detrimental, particularly when celebrity news can often be reminiscent of the gladiator arenas of old; a good, ruinous story about a celebrity satiates the public’s appetite for blood, the socially acceptable version, but nonetheless innately human pleasure in seeing the downfalls of others.gladiatorpreview

Ironically this can backfire on a journalist’s reputation, and often readers seem to have no qualms in biting the hand that feeds them. An example of this is the public outrage towards the media for hounding Amy Winehouse (click here), something that they couldn’t get enough of to start off with.amy-winehouse-sick

The film suggests that being successful invariably means writing about what your readers are interested in, however superficial the subject may be – the media is, at the end of the day, an industry. However, changing times call for a changing focus, subscriptions for the Economist have gone up, More on the other hand seems to be struggling with its readership. Unsurprisingly, people are less interested in reading about Madonna’s latest craze, and more interested in reading about the financial market…news with substance is on its way up. For now. Perhaps this will also help to change perceptions towards the media.

Although there are numerous reasons why journalists have acquired a bad name for themselves, the news industry has changed enormously since the days that every journo had a bottle of brandy in the top drawer of their office desk. Editors can no longer afford to be complacent because they are constantly challenged by the accessibility of the Internet, the feedback that it enables and vast competition it offers.

The Internet prevents journalists from pressing their hands firmly to their ears, and thus they have increasingly found themselves in embarrassing situations that ten years ago they would have got away with. Think Andrew Gilligan. Despite public opinion, mistakes are mostly made in good faith, the Internet has forced journalists to do their job more thoroughly, and although changes are certainly needed, journalism is heading in a better direction.

Trust issues are now deeply embedded in the media, and scrupulous attention to detail and facts by journalists are essential if attitudes are going to change. Although arguably better quality news will attract more readers, this is difficult to balance with the fact that so many readers are interested in fast, juicy news, which often has a side-product of sloppy reporting.

In that case, to what extent are our readers fuelling, and in some ways responsible, for the media’s bad rep?

As future journalists we must learn to understand our readers so that as the news industry changes we are able to draw-in and maintain readership.

Overall women still use the Internet less often than men, although this has changed over the past few years to the extent that there is now only a few percent in difference (click here for details).

What is interesting from a journalist’s perspective is that although women are catching up with men in most measures of online life, there are huge differences in the types of ways they use the Internet. Studies have shown that men generally use the internet to find sports, financial and hard news information, whereas women are more inclined to use support groups and interactive forums.

Lumping women (or men) together does not reflect their diversity, but the Internet often reflects and reinforces stereotypes that remove many women from central political debates. This tends to isolate them within platforms that are often not considered with equal weight by malestream media.

Obviously there is a lot of rubbish on the Internet but this is not to say that these platforms are not valuable. firstwives.com gives tips on ‘how to catch your man and keep him’, but is also a great example of an enormous support group of ordinary women who offer advice on subjects from marital law to post-break-up stress.

Blogs provide a forum for open discussion about politics, human rights, stories, ideas, conversation and women’s issues. Black Looks: Musings and Rants by an African Fem, Blog Sisters and Media Girl are the sorts of sites that are increasingly used by men and women who are disenchanted by news and politics in its traditional form. The Internet lends itself well as an alternative to more established news forms because it offers variable platforms for people to undermine the (essentially male-dominated) news industry.

So how much influence do female news consumers have in comparison to men if their strength lies in a different domain? And how can we interest such people in a business that is losing readers fast?

The World Association for Christian Communication issued a report, “Who Makes the News” showing that women’s views, news, concerns, and perceptions, as well as female journalists are seriously under-represented in the media around the world.

The Global Monitoring Media Project 2005 also came to the conclusion that male journalists and their comments are prevalent in the media and highlighted how female journalists are often young and gorgeous, particularly in broadcast. Many of my favourite chief reporters and news editors are women, so it is not entirely a lost cause, but these are worrying attitudes.

Such attitudes disadvantage journalists, both male and female, because the way that news is traditionally presented leaves an enormous gap in the industry, and with increased opportunities to search for news in other places newspapers are losing readers fast.

The potential of the Internet is huge. But it is potential that hasn’t been tapped to its full extent. Many women are interested in politics and we must be wary of stereotypes, however, statistics are enormously helpful in enabling us as journalists to reach our readers and incorporate them in a more balanced way. Hopefully this will maintain maximum readership, using different kinds of platforms to draw in readers and take on board their opinions…keeping up-to-date on any changes along the way.