2014 Year in Review (worldwide edition)
I've written my annual personal Year in Review, but this year I wanted to touch upon some issues that haven't necessarily affected me or my work directly, but have nonetheless affected my year.
I'm not a professional writer, journalist, nor political pundit. These vague views are just what I've come to feel at the end of the year. Take them all at face value, and feel free to point out if anything is erroneous.
I don't like to lead with a negative tone but, from a global perspective, 2014 has really sucked. Simple mentions of words like "Ebola", "Ukraine" and "Ferguson" bring to mind grave and complex stories from the past 12 months. Even our two great sporting events of the year have been overshadowed. Both the World Cup and the Winter Olympics were supposed to be great opportunities to connect with two countries which are on the up, but the first was marred by controversies in a now overtly corrupt FIFA and the second by Russian homophobia and land invasions.
Closer to heart, the previously escapist hobby of playing video games was over-run by often misappropriated "controversies" which dominated gaming discussion and press. What was previously a place of openness was turned into a hotbed for harassment and misogyny, and endless condemnations of the selfsame harassment and misogyny. An entire culture was spoiled, not by GamerGate and not by "SJWs", but by constant bickering and fighting to stay relevant.
Ultimately, to my mind, this has all been the fault of poor reactionary journalism, an unintelligible thirst for controversial stories which bring in more readers, more viewers and more money. Online journalism has succumbed to the syndrome of Buzzfeed and Upworthy, trying to reshape itself to align with their profitable models, riding the curtails of the young audience they pick up, and damned to the fact that this isn't news any more.
In 2015, I want to see a return to traditional news-telling. I want to see stories researched and confirmed properly before being put online, with a weak apology issued the next day stating how it was an "editorial oversight" which inadvertently earned thousands of pounds of revenue in advertising money that shan't be repaid. I want to see the news not trying to be relevant and hip, to stop pandering to people by covering inconsequential stories on topics like Minecraft and "James from Vine" in an attempt to corral people to start visiting their site.
I'd like to see more grass-roots journalism, more explanations from the field which aren't over-blown reports composed by someone thousands of miles away who has a frame in mind for the story already. I finally see the point of something like the upcoming Infobitt which, whilst not looking perfect, seems to be a step in the right direction. And I want to see the general public holding the news reporting outlets honest, challenging bad and unethical practices. Why are resources like Private Eye to be the only ones to report on, for example, favourable coverage based on business deals?
Over the past few years (and undoubtedly for longer since) online journalism has turned from being informative to being crass entertainment. Too much time is spent pushing agendas, attacking groups with whom the writer disagrees, and with whom they think their readership should disagree with too. And too often this descends into little more than personal attacks, manufactured outrage, and an altogether false reality that exists only to help validate previously held beliefs.
It's been a funny year for politics too. In declaring their outrage at the ever-growing UKIP, the press helped propel them even further up the pecking order. We may look back at say that UKIP have gained such much traction this year because of their strong results in the European elections but, frankly, they gained traction because every left-wing media outlet spent months beforehand issuing front-page headlines that only bolstered their following.
Not to contradict my point and further draw attention to UKIP, but I get where their following is coming from. Despite believing that Nigel Farage is a nasty piece of work and his party will do nothing but drive our country back in unexpected and turbulent ways, I have to credit them with stepping in at a time when people are disillusioned and provide a fairly believable alternative. I like Farage's image. He's not an Oxbridge-educated tosspot, but someone who seems (somewhat uniquely in the field) like a genuine human being. He seems more interested in talking his mind than protecting his image which, even though I agree with his mind, I want to see more of in the political world.
The only other vaguely affable person in politics this year has been Russell Brand who can certainly be credited with getting younger people interested in the field, but with little more. Brand talks with long words and archaic language, presumably to appear intelligent, but instead comes across like a pantomime character from the 1800s.
With both Farage and Brand, I completely see where they come from and why they're needed in the spectrum right now. I want more accessible politicians in our country, I just wish they were more agreeable. Perhaps next year we'll see the appearance of some people who fit into both categories, who can be genial, intelligent and hold an argument without shouting or falling back to insults. I'd really like to be able to vote for someone I genuinely believe in in an upcoming election.