It’s fair to say that journalism has had a tough time of it lately. The Leveson Inquiry
has rightly thrown many underhand practices into the open. Now, when you mention you’re a journalist, people can get a little uneasy. So when a friend recently told me he had simply stopped telling people what he did for a living, it got me thinking.
Good and bad journalism has always existed. Bodies such as the National Union of Journalists (NUJ
) do have a Code of Conduct which can regulate members. However, in publications where neither the Code or the Union are not recognised (for example News International) it’s a bit of a toothless tiger.
What goes on in news rooms throughout the UK is largely unknown. unlike many other national organisations and public bodies, newspapers and magazine companies do not publish a staff list containing info such as emails and phone numbers.
But instead of keeping everything behind closed doors, opening them up and laying bare methods of investigation and declaring interests could be the only way forward for modern journalism.
This is radical stuff. If a journalist was routinely hand-fed info from PR companies, had links to companies and/or parliament or received any kind of gift – people would know about it. Admittedly any kind of public register would be hard to get up and running at first, but revealing a level of transparency would undoubtedly expose influences which have long been hidden. What’s more it would give the reader a level of objectivity they have never had before.
As a journalist myself, I know any kind of registration would be fraught with problems. It would be easy to dismiss stories which have legitimate points just because of the links the writer has with certain people or companies. How it would be monitored is another minefield.
But the alternative is for every journalist to be viewed with suspicious eyes. If you want to be seen as legitimate, you have to prove it.
Whatever the outcome, journalists will just have to get use to more people wanting to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
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