Discuss, including your suggested declaration and your arguments for its fitness.
Perhaps Journalism has never been the people’s champion, perhaps one day, it may become just that. In order to determine its future, I will evaluate this area of Journalism, looking particularly at its standing in the public view.
Firstly, we must determine the idea of “positive principles”. I would suggest that it is alluding to ethical practices.
In simple terms, Brian McNair describes Journalism as “any authored text which claims to be true, new and about the actual, social world”i. If we take this basic view, then Journalism is something which is new, or at least has new angle, something which has importance, in the sense of the actual or social world, and most importantly something which is true.
One may argue that these three things are not in question when it comes to the current view of Journalism. The positive principle is probably referring to the way journalists gain their information, and whether or not their methods are ethical – something which is definitely in question at the moment.
If a journalist is aiming to tell the truth, to tell the public of an important story, what should he/she do if they can only get the facts of the story through dishonest or even illegal processes?
That is where a question of ethics would come into play. Maybe it is okay to bend the rules a little bit in order to get to the important information, for the ‘greater good’ if you like. Maybe as long as no-one gets hurt it is okay.
In Journalism Ethics and Regulation, Chris Frost suggests that a good journalist will gather information in a “morally justifiable way”ii. But everyone has different morals. What is morally correct to me might not be so to you, and there are some journalist who would be prepared to abandon any morals in the search for a big story.
In all honesty, I believe each individual case would have to be judged on merit, and even then people would disagree. It is simply a matter of opinion. There are always external factors to whether a journalist is being ethical or not. In terms of this essay, I will deal more with the question of trust.
If Journalism is to ever be the people’s champion, then the people or the public must trust what they read, and it seems that this is not the case.
In a 2011 survey by Ipsos MORI, Journalist came near the bottom of a poll about trustworthy professions, ahead of only Government Ministers and Politicians in General.iii
This would suggest a lack of trust in what a journalist says, after all how often do you hear the phrase ‘don’t believe everything you read in the papers?’
The simple truth is that the public have become sceptical over what they read and, in recent times especially, who could blame them.
For example, we are currently in the midst of the Leveson Inquiry - the biggest inquiry into ‘culture, practices and ethics’iv of the press, or any other facet of society, ever seen.
The inquiry was called for after the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, in which the newspaper illegally hacked mobile phones, of celebrities, the deceased and MPs in order to obtain information. The inquiry was to also investigate the role of the police and their relationship with the media over the past few years.
With the questions over the integrity of many leading figures in the media, the police and the government, it is little wonder that the public are now very sceptical about what they are told.
For example, Rebekah Brooks was a senior journalist and editor at both The Sun and News of the World when a large chunk of the phone-hacking was said to be taking place. She admitted to Leveson that she was “very close” to Rupert Murdoch and even exchanged texts with David Cameron, she also spoke to and advised the Prime Minister about…