Aspiring journalists should ignore Oliver Kamm’s career advice

Staying on the topic of Macron, Putin, and Russia Today, Times columnist Oliver Kamm had this to say:

I believe that Oliver Kamm is an excellent writer and fully deserves his slot at the Times, but let’s not pretend he got there wholly on merit: he is the son of a famous publisher and equally famous publisher/translator, his maternal grandfather founded the Times crossword, and he is the nephew of BBC correspondent Martin Bell. Kamm giving young journalists career advice is a bit like Chelsea Clinton telling aspiring writers how to get a piece in Variety magazine.

Oliver Kamm personifies the metropolitan, pro-European elite which flourished under New Labour and, if their comments around Brexit are anything to go by, are wholly out of touch with the rest of the population. His remark about Russia Today is more reflective of the snobbery that is rife in such circles than a condemnation of Russia’s media outlets.

Let me be frank: RT peddles pro-Kremlin propaganda and they have all sorts of cranks and idiots invited on to speak. They routinely engage in misinformation campaigns, and the one they embarked on following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was particularly despicable. I am not here to defend RT’s content or editorial policies.

But are the likes of the BBC any better? Or CNN? Actually, yes they are. But the problem is the likes of Kamm believe the BBC, CNN, and the others are paragons of virtue, whereas I would say that there are serious shortcomings with all of them, particularly their obvious bias when it comes to any given issue. Is the BBC’s relentless anti-Trump coverage any better than RT’s pro-Kremlin output? Probably yes, but there’s not a whole lot in it. And RT never pretends to be impartial, unlike the BBC. And that’s what gets me: the metropolitan media elite lack the self awareness to realise that they are guilty of the same charges they level at their competitors.

What is also telling is that Kamm appears to think the editorial credibility of a particular outlet is all that matters when building a career in media. Of course, one would hardly expect somebody who was parachuted straight into a national broadsheet to understand this, but some clue would have been nice. Working for an outfit like RT would be valuable experience for anyone wanting a career in media: regardless of their editorial policies, their production qualities are top-notch and I suspect they cover the non-controversial stories with as much professionalism as any other station. You might as well tell young engineers not to work for BAe because they supply cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia.

Of course, what Kamm means is that by working for RT a young journalist would find themselves shunned from those who occupy the London media bubble, not shut out of the entire global industry. What if the young journalist was Russian, for example? A Russian friend of a friend works for RT in London, and was sent to Paris to cover the anti-capitalist protests last year. Was her career suffering? Didn’t look like it. Should a young Portuguese journalist avoid RT because they might find themselves shut out of the London-based media as a result? For a bunch who are forever wailing about Brexit and sucking up to the Europeans, these metropolitan elites are really quite parochial and can’t see past the M25, let alone beyond Europe’s major cities.

And while we’re on the subject of credibility, Oliver Kamm was and still is an ardent supporter of Tony Blair and New Labour, hopes that Macron will govern in the same vein, and believes that the “liberal interventionism” characterised by Blair, i.e. bombing third-world nations in order to bring peace, is something to be advocated.

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10 thoughts on “Aspiring journalists should ignore Oliver Kamm’s career advice

  1. For a bunch who are forever wailing about Brexit and sucking up to the Europeans, these metropolitan elites are really quite parochial and can’t see past the M25, let alone beyond Europe’s major cities.

    So true. Most of the Remoaning hysterics on my facebook are people who have lived their entire lives in the UK, yet think it is Brexit that will deprive their monoglot children of opportunities to live and work overseas.

    I think you’re too kind to Kamm, Tim. I would find it hard to write anything about him without including the phrase ‘pompous arsehole’.

    The Times editorial staff is still in mourning for New Labour.

  2. Just had a squizz at RT’s coverage of the Macron speech and came across this recent RT interview on Duterte, can’t see anything fake about it. I don’t doubt for a minute that they are a propaganda tool but I actually found the interview quite interesting and Duterte quite truthful especially when he gave his reason for not visiting the Spratly Islands recently, I watched the full interview which is unusual for me. I doubt you would get any interviews like this published by the London MSM for what it’s worth.

    https://www.rt.com/shows/rt-interview/389163-philippines-duterte-interview/

  3. I see The Times only occasionally, but I find Kamm dismally pompous and deeply uninteresting.

  4. The good news is that the BBC is now subject to Ofcom regulation. RT has been sanctioned by Ofcom more than once, as it should have been. Until recently, complaints against the BBC had to be taken to the BBC itself. The bad news is that Ofcom’s Content Board is staffed by former BBC employees.

    RT seems to have advanced from outrageous to merely the worst among equals. It’s as if CNN et al. had been so overcome by envy at some point that they started emulating RT, mutatis mutandis of course.

  5. “His remark about Russia Today is more reflective of the snobbery that is rife in such circles than a condemnation of Russia’s media outlets.”

    And that snobbery just won’t work.

    I once spent about 3 or 4 hours on a train with journalists, and I was really surprised at how matey they all were. These were rivals, but you’d think they were colleagues, looking up things for each other and so forth. And I realised after last year’s Ghostbusters situation that a groupthink effect had kicked in. The newspaper reviewers were all pals going to the same press screenings.

    The “pack” might have kept an RT journalist out, but that’s not going to work now and in future. The Times and The Guardian just don’t matter like they once did. The Internet has caused an explosion of competitors. People creating media channels of their own, rather than relying on being related to a Coren or a Pollard.

    Personally, I think it’s just generally a bad industry to go into. Far too much competition now. Probably fine as a sideline – write a few movie reviews, earn a few quid in Google money to buy some cognac, but mostly, there’s tons of people out there filming something on their smartphones and posting on YouTube for a few dollars of ad money, or writing analysis on Medium. Anyone can do it. No-one’s making much of a profit. In the last 15 years, The Times has made a net loss. The Guardian is going out of business. The Telegraph is clearly feeling the pinch as they’re trying to get more premium subscribers for whatever garbage they write now. Are these places going to be hiring ever again, or firing?

    At which point, you might as well take your chances with a sugar daddy with deep pockets…

  6. Didn’t know those things about Kamm. I took The Times last year on a year’s subscription, and cancelled it when the year was up. Deeply disappointed, especially at its coverage after the referendum. My late uncle was a correspondent on The Times, he would have been deeply upset at the depths to which it has fallen.

  7. I think you’re too kind to Kamm, Tim. I would find it hard to write anything about him without including the phrase ‘pompous arsehole’.

    He is a pompous arse, but he regularly does a fine job in tackling idiots like Chomsky, Pilger, Galloway, etc. He’s well read and has a deep knowledge of history, and has debunked quite a few of the conspiracy theories (e.g. the one that says the US had no reason to drop the nukes on Japan). His old blog used to be excellent, mainly for these reasons. But yes, he can be a pompous arse and his views on Brexit and the proletariat are steeped in privilege and snobbery. I guess people are complicated, and you don’t have to like all of them to like some of them. 🙂

  8. Just had a squizz at RT’s coverage of the Macron speech and came across this recent RT interview on Duterte, can’t see anything fake about it.

    Indeed: those who disparage RT probably don’t look at the non-controversial stuff that doesn’t interest them. They’re a bit like Wikipedia: don’t rely on them for anything controversial, but it doesn’t mean everything they do is shite. Actually, that sounds like the BBC.

  9. The “pack” might have kept an RT journalist out, but that’s not going to work now and in future. The Times and The Guardian just don’t matter like they once did.

    I agree. Kamm has joined an elite but dying band, and doesn’t understand that their days are numbered.

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