Saturday, August 14, 2004

Journalisms key battle - its own integrity

Chummy Washington, D.C. Compare that shallowness with this from the Scotsman "Journalism's key battle is with its own integrity"

Comment is free, but facts are sacred, the great CP Scott of the Guardian once said. But in an age when "facts" are increasingly seen as weapons, to be ruthlessly selected and spun in order to support an already existing point of view that distinction is becoming desperately hard to maintain.

What’s more, the hyper-competitive climate of the western media is not conducive to the long-term fostering of an ethic of civic journalism, characterised by high standards of accuracy and integrity.

There can be no press freedom if journalists exist in conditions of fear, poverty and corruption," says one of the IFJ’s own favourite slogans; and even if most British journalists manage to keep poverty and corruption at bay, there’s no denying the fear - of failure, of unemployment, of never making it in one of the world’s most intensely competitive professions, or of arbitrary power in all its forms - that keeps journalists away from some of the world’s most difficult and sensitive stories, that compels some of them, often against their own consciences, to keep churning out hate-filled headlines on subjects such as asylum and migration, and that, on occasions, drives ambitious young writers and photographers, often working freelance without protection or training, to take the kinds of risks that can lead to tragedy.

The Scotsman notes that journalists want to make deliberate targeting of journalists and staff to be made a war crime.
But clearly though I understand the case for these reforms, I have a feeling that the campaign is unlikely to succeed, so long as journalists remain one of the unpopular professional groups on earth, often perceived as exercising their huge influence on public opinion and debate without integrity, responsibility, or even basic decency.

It goes without saying that journalists should be free to report on conflict without fear or favour, and with as much independence as they can achieve.

But in order to earn the kind of automatic protection from all sides which they need to do that job - and which James Brandon seems, remarkably, to have received from his Shia captors in Basra yesterday - they also have to demonstrate, and to be allowed to demonstrate, levels of honesty, objectivity and courage in their work that mark them out as servants of the public interest and of the truth, as well as of the particular media organisations for which they work.

As we all know, free and accurate information is the lifeblood of democracy, the force without which it becomes a manipulative mockery of itself.

He concludes,
But if we journalists want to defend our profession from the growing external attacks which it suffers, then we will also need to defend it from those attacks to its integrity which come from within, from our own attitudes, our own working and management practices, and our own desperation to field the sensational headline at almost any cost.

Otherwise, in our fight for the right to report freely on a new century of wars, we may look around and find ourselves friendless; shorn of the allies on whom we might once have depended, but whose respect and support we have often forfeited, to the great long-term cost not only of ourselves, but of the whole society we are supposed to serve.

Read the whole thing. He indicts journalism with all the faults we bloggers have noted.

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