Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dumbing down: the FT?

I am not sure how current the phrase "dumbing down" is outside the UK. But this British expression refers to the lowering of standards, specifically intellectual and linguistic ones.

Dumbing down is no doubt sometimes deliberate, but is usually the accidental by-product of structural changes, ownership, incentive systems, and so on.

This phenomenon started with British TV, which used to tower head and shoulders above TV in the rest of the world. BBC TV resisted valiantly for some years. Then standards at BBC Radio started crumbling and finally even atthe BBC World Service (Radio) - even though the latter channel continues to be the best in the world, its standards have certainly fallen from its heyday in the Sixties. Commercial interests continue to hammer and chip at this at the whole of the BBC.

In a sort of parallel movement, standards started falling at British newspapers. The great newspapers The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian (whatever one might have thought of their politics) slowly succumbed. The Independent has provided some challenge to that trend. However, I don't keep up with any of them, now that I have lived outside the UK for some 12 years.

But I do keep up with the FT, whose standards also started declining some years ago. I recollect writing to the Editor of the FT when I first noticed this trend, asking what the colour of someone's clothes had to do with the content of the particular front-page story, and whether such frivolity could be expected to continue.

No answer of course.

Now things have come to such a sorry pass that we find the following headline in today's edition (on the Net): "Pessimism manifests itself very effectively to produce the status of monetary liquidity, the driving force for a return to growth". This is not English. Rather, it is some kind of gibberish.

BTW, has also gone increasingly for advertisements on its site, presumably in order to make money. In principle, I have no objection to advertisements. They can be informative. They can even be entertaining. However, in their search for returns, the chiefs at have now started letting in advertising with kinetic content. This slows the site so much that reading is becoming a substantial waste of time. Sphere: Related Content

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