Nuts and Bolts: Journalism

Posted: March 18, 2012 in notes, Sweden

Once again something from a crime fiction book has got me thinking about the events of the past year, and the ramifications of the Leveson Inquiry.

‘I’m deeply committed to journalism,’ he said. ‘The man in the street is my employer. I’ve fought against corruption and the abuse of power all of my professional life. That’s the very core of journalism. The truth is my guiding light, not influence, and not power.’  Exposed: Liza Marklund 1999

I could have subtitled this post, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

The Good:

The Daily Telegraph exposed the abuse of the lax expenses system in both the House of Commons and House of Lords, and some MPs went to prison. 

Today’s Observer has an excellent article by Yvonne Roberts featuring the plight of Britain’s working poor who will soon lose tax credits at a time when the country’s 1% top earners will get a reduction in their tax burden. 

The Bad:

The disgraceful invasion of privacy by some newspapers using private detectives to phone hack people’s messages to obtain stories for the entertainment of “the man or woman in the street” may well bring about restrictions on a free press. The payment of vast sums of money to wealthy celebrities and politicians whose phones were hacked can only be justified if this money was forwarded along to charities. I exclude from this the family of a young murder victim, and the neighbour of a murder victim whose reputation was torn to ribbons by the predatory press. 

The Leveson Inquiry has exposed a very unhealthy relationship between powerful media tycoons, journalists, politicians and the police. If this occurred in Italy we would be smiling and calling the country institutionally corrupt. We now have the incredible situation of a government minister resigning because he has been charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice; and two of the Prime Minister’s close friends, one of whom Rebekah Brooks was formerly CEO of News International, have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. 

The Ugly:

This recent headline in the print version of The Guardian was an example of journalists trying to be too clever.

Revealed:London doctor who advised Assad during crackdown

Of course the online version headline was changed as someone realised  that most people who had a brain knew that the “Harley Street cardiologist who was acting as a close adviser to the president of Syria during his regime’s brutal crackdown” was Dr Fawas Akhras, Assad’s father -in- law. The situation in Syria is serious enough without stupid non-stories. 

*********

Will ethical journalists still have the freedom to pursue the corrupt, and expose scandals after the Leveson Inquiry eventually reports? 

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Comments
  1. Maxine says:

    Great examples, Norman. of course I like the one by Liza Marklund best, more than 10 years old now. How many journalists think like that now? A lot I hope……..

  2. kathy d. says:

    Agree. Examples and points well taken. And Liza Marklund’s quote is a good one. Over here, I wonder how many journalists who’ve been at it for years think that way. So much of the real truth is covered up, as even in the run-up to the Iraq war, in the biggest newspaper and on television.. Much of the real story came out after the damage was done.

    It also came out that one of the most powerful and far-reaching TV channels had told its news and talk-show anchors not to oppose the Iraq war or give opinions on their shows. Only a few have said this years later. Others haven’t.

    Oh, for integrity and truth in news!

  3. Bill Selnes says:

    I have mixed emotions about investigative journalism.

    They are self-appointed with relatively few checks on how they conduct investigations.

    I have been involved in more than one case where a journalist crafted a story to suit a point of view rather than letting the facts guide the conclusion.

    At the same time media can bring necessary public focus to a story.

    I have also been involved in matters where the truth of a bad situation and compensation would not have taken place without the media.

  4. Maxine says:

    I agree with Bill, it happens all the time. In my job, I and colleagues are often interviewed by investigative journalists about aspects of our journals, and sometimes the end-result is galling. I suppose that’s just a risk we have to take for a free press. I agree, though, there is little one can do when a journalist has a particular agenda and simply “cherry picks” a couple of comments from an hour’s interview about something else (as happened to me recently with the NYT) – except one can decide not to talk to that journalist again.

  5. Norman Price says:

    Thanks for your comments.
    A lot of Exposed concerns the inexperienced Annika’s attempts to maintain a balance between getting facts out that are in the public interest, and not going too far and exploiting people’s grief.

    Unfortunately the press can on occasions blot their copybook so badly, the Milly Dowler phone hacking and the character assassination of Joanna Yeates landlord, Christopher Jefferies, that the good work they do in exposing corruption gets lost in the furore.

  6. kathy d. says:

    I was commenting on the press having integrity and principles and telling the truth. But certainly not exploiting people. The phone hacking scandal is outrageous, that members of the “press” would hack into people’s phones is criminal and people from all rankings in the media that do it should go to jail.
    Character assassination isn’t too good either.
    Where is principled journalism in all of this?
    Sorry to hear the NYT cherry-picked comments but I’m not surprised. The NYT doesn’t always perform with the most integrity, such as before the Iraq war, when it went along with the official story and only much later, when so much destruction had occurred, did the truth come out.

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