The Beast

Discworld is a strange place, Lord of the Rings meets Monty Python. Even so, some things look familiar:

The press waited. It looked, now, like a great big beast. Soon he’d throw a lot of words into it. And in a few hours it would be hungry again, as if those words had never happened. You could feed it, but you could never fill it up.

Today, 24 hour news, internet competition, and recession cutbacks make the Beast hungrier than ever.

Small wonder journalists who once practised “pavement reporting”, reporting at first hand, are now trapped in offices connected to the world through a phone line and email account.

Often, it doesn’t matter. Reporters make it clear that they are reporting what onlookers saw, or stories are updated as new information comes to light. And knowing rival newspapers gloat at glaring errors keeps everyone on their toes.

Newspapers have always made mistakes or even shown downright bias, but the theory behind freedom of the press is that truth will overwhelm untrue accounts.

Even so, the maxim “Reader Beware” always applies. Common sense is never more needed than when reading (or reporting) a story that seems too good to be true.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.