Facts vs Opinions
David and Helen talk with Jonathan Shainin, Head of Opinion at the Guardian newspaper, about the challenges of political journalism in a deeply polarised age. Is it possible to hold the line between news and comment? Are the arguments about Covid a rerun of Brexit? What can scientists and historians add to political analysis? Plus we discuss how American journalism has changed the way it talks about race and violence and what that means for the current moment.
The heightened state of political opinion writing around Brexit seems to have dissipated.
- The opinion pages became a vehicle for a kind of tribal politics. There was a relentless urgency to it: was that illusory?
- Technology revealed the enormous appetite for news and commentary related to Brexit.
- People want updates and then they want trusted voices to add to the experience and understanding of events.
Is there a distinction between emotional and analytical opinion pieces?
- Opinion pages will always reflect partisan opinions.
- To what extent is an opinion piece feeding into a libidinal appetite among readers?
- Is there a role in either the Guardian or the Telegraph for an opinion piece that would be comprehensible to the other side?
One thing John set out to do is to reduce the frequency of opinion pieces.
- In the early days of the pandemic, a lot of the pieces were explanatory and written by experts.
- Can we separate scientific expertise from political judgment?
Analytical pieces aim for a different kind of persuasion.
- Historians and political theorists can say: can we think about things in a different way?
- No form of journalism can be made bulletproof against weaponised forms of skepticism or cynicism.
The classical model of how the facts, the news, and the demos interact is now outdated.
- A new model would have to capture the chaos and instability between these elements.
- Journalism feels more urgent, yet the urgency is accompanied by diminished authority.
- Has Trump revealed the limits of the analytical mode?
- What happens when there isn’t room for reasonable disagreement?
Mentioned in this Episode:
- Ian Jack on the Scottish Independence Referendum
- David’s piece for The Guardian, It was all a dream’
- William Hanage for the Guardian on COVID
- Melanie Philips in the Times on COVID
- Alan Finlayson on why we should stop complaining about tribalism
- Helen’s piece on football for the New Statesman
- David on climate denialism