Flat Earth News

The car that never was

Click here to go to the main blog page.

Tagged: / Posted: 8 December 2008

Hello there, I work in radio and I just wanted to shed some light on what goes on there. I found it quite shocking that major news outlets like the quality broadsheets do the same thing we do. But then we go one step further. I should add that I work at a small privately owned local radio station in Germany. I got my own show a few months ago and boy was I happy. That changed very soon. A client who was buying airtime wanted to promote a new car they were selling. So they gave us one to give away. Which was nice. We came up with a not very original game. It was called the secret car. Every hour I had to tell my unsuspecting listeners that the car was in particular town or part of town along with some hints as to what the car looks like. The first person to spot the car would win it. Fairly simple. We played this game for 14 days. Strangely enough the winner spotted the car on the last day of those 14 days. And during prime time. Lucky us, ey? Well you guessed it. The car was never on the road. Except for the last day. And then we made it fairly simple to spot. Well at least we had a genuine winner. A couple of years before that we gave away a Porsche for the weekend, every weekend. The game lasted a couple of months. Funnily enough all the winners happened to be business associates of the station owner. I was an intern back then and I was assigned the task of calling these people and record fake Oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-I-won interviews with them to promote the competition on air. There was no debate within the station about whether or not we should blatantly lie to our listeners like that. Not one single dissenting voice. I did ask a few colleagues during cigarette breaks what they thought of it, but all I got each time was a shrug. Many more expamples where those came from. Also I would like to add that I earn just above minimum wage and the entire editorial output of our station is produced by three teenage interns and the chief editor. Someone's trying to save money. I can see quality journalism like I can see the belt of Orion in the nighttime sky. As a faraway place that I'll probably never get to. Another point: don't blame the journos. Unless for a lack of balls to speak up about what's going on and challenging their bosses (which we don't because we like being employed and earning money and stuff like that). Most of the folks I know in this business are incredibly hard working and dedicated. But when you're the guy who reads the news (at least in German local radio) that also means, in most cases, you ARE the news desk. You research and compile all the news, do phone interviews, feed the website, check the wire, check the inbox, read the papers, try to get audio from colleagues, write the copy AND be on air every half hour presenting my "findings". I have no time to check anything. I use whatever I can get my hands on to sell to you as news. I am under no illusions about working in an industry that - like any other - tries to make money. But at my place there is no journalism happening. I'm a salesman. And the funny thing is: ever since we threw morals and ehtics and standards overboard entirely, our ratings have gone up massively. I'm still waiting to see the next round of listening figures to see if it was a glitch. Until then I will assume the following (whisper it): people don't mind being lied to. P.S.: I'd love to hear from British colleagues. Is it that bad where you are? P.P.S.: I realize that this is not really about the reporting of news. But to get into that would be too painful. As I said, most of the stuff I get in the studio is made by interns who've been in the job somewhere in between 1-8 weeks. They do the actual reporting. Nuff said.

>>> Archive of Nick Davies work >>>