Thursday, October 10, 2013

Don't believe a word*

We have all long been cynical about the way that politicians manipulate the news for their own purposes. We even have a word for it: 'spin'. Who could forget the government spin doctor who suggested that September the 11th 2001 would be a good day to bury bad news?

But politicians don't just bury bad news, they also create 'good' news stories that show them and their policies in a favourable light. Unfortunately, politicians are not the only ones...

Part of what I do is monitor family law news stories for inclusion in Family Lore Focus. Call me naive, but I used to think that what I was monitoring was all genuine news - after all, most of the sites I was monitoring were entirely reputable, such as broadsheet national newspapers.

Sadly, this is far from the case.

Lawyers (and, no doubt, many other businesses) regularly manufacture news as a means of advertising themselves. You can see why - after all, how much would it cost to place an advert in a national newspaper?

The 'news' stories typically take one of two forms:

Firstly, there is the story about the survey that the firm commissioned which comes up with results that are sooo interesting. I have already commented about this caper in my last Friday Review.

Secondly, the story that the firm comes up with from their own experience. Someone at the firm notices something that once happened on one of their files, mentions it at a meeting of the firm's advertising department, and that 'something' is 'expanded' into a whole new trend in divorce work, worthy of national coverage.

How does one spot these stories? Well, my advice is to be wary when you see, usually about half way down the page, the Senior Partner at x Firm giving their expert views. Check to see whether the story emanated from their firm. Of course, I have no problem with a lawyer being asked to comment upon a genuine news story, but when they comment upon their own story...

I'm sure the newspapers are fully aware that they are being used, but they get a free news story that they can publish on a quiet news day, so everyone wins.

Or do they?

*Damn, just broken my rule never again to use a song title for a post headline.

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