Dennis Barker

Tricks Journalists Play

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Dennis Barker has written a hard-hitting expose of the erosion of standards and values in the media world of newspapers, TV and radio over the past twenty years, in particular those of integrity, independence of thought and accuracy. He was prompted to start work on his book by the low standing of journalists – at the bottom near estate-agents and politicians – in recent opinion polls on the esteem in which the public holds those in different professions. He takes the reader through a whole gamut of journalistic 'tricks', which pinpoint the failings of the media, in over fifty short chapters, including 'the death of the reporter', prejudicial words', 'shovel it all in', 'the sub's role', 'my beautiful career', 'same old celebrities', 'money worship' and 'headlines and fib-lines'. In 'snubbing', we see how a colourfully dramatic conflict or a cauldron of ill-will can be created where possibly none exists. The general public is becoming increasingly aware of the unsatisfactory state of affairs in media journalism, which is highlighted by the periodic distortions caused by the political ambitions of chief executives and tycoons, misleading headlines, and its extraordinary obsession with celebrity culture. Tricks Journalists Play is essential reading for the majority of us who care about the pernicious effects of spin, misrepresentation and deception and social and international prejudice, the purveying of half-truths in relation to crucial issues that affect our future, and the failure to report fully and accurately on matters that have a bearing on freedom and democracy in this country. An experienced journalist himself, Dennis Barker has worked for the Guardian since the 1960s in many roles, from feature writer and media correspondent to general columnist, and at the moment is a contributor of obituaries, mainly in the media and entertainment spheres. Sarah Birke in New Statesman: 'Journalists are seen as a cynical bunch — not just by politicians, but by the general public as well. Noble ideas of honesty, accuracy and a bit of hard graft seem to have been abandoned in favour of networking and re-spun press releases…[Barker] does well to call for more investigative journalism and a public campaign to rethink within the profession.' Tom Easton in Lobster, no.55, summer 2008: Apropos of Flat Earth News, he writes: 'Other reporters, including, for example, a Guardian writer of a slightly earlier vintage than [Nick] Davies, Dennis Barker, have given insider insight on what goes on. Barker's low-key [book] deserves a wide audience for its breadth and witty clarity.' Roger Silver on, August 2008 (four-star): '…One way of being forearmed would be to read this book and learn from the insights it provides into much journalistic behaviour. Writing as an insider, [he] gives examples of the tricks and sleights of hand used by journalists in a host of different situations…His book is a valuable navigational aid for anyone thrust, willingly or unwillingly, into the potentially treacherous waters of media relations. It is also a disturbing commentary on declining journalistic values which Dennis Barker so demonstrably deplores.'
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266 printed pages
Original publication


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