Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A Little Late- But these are my arbitrary opinions on the Leveson.

A little like a new computer, the Leveson enquiry was out of date before it even started. I read with interest that Paul Dacre would like to see a the introduction of a ‘kite-mark’ system for journalists. However, surely any such move, aimed only at “members of print news gathering organisations or magazines” is a move aimed at justifying the existence of such organisations rather than attempting to fix any ethical wrongdoing? 

Actual Daily Mail headline probably. 

By the time the News of the World finished last year, its circulation had fallen to 2.7m copies, easily the most popular of the sunday papers and as such, an excellent example of the changing way in which we now consume news. 
There is absolutely no doubt that media organisations have used underhand methods to break stories before, perhaps even more so in the pre-internet days when breaking a story quickly could give your paper up to a full day’s advantage over your competitors. Today the competition is even more fierce, with hundreds of thousands of online blogs and news outlets existing to circulate content. Of course ‘content’  is the key word here. Often what is produced is nothing more than comment or rumour which is then seized upon and parroted ad-infinitum by the other blogs, by the dailies and by news organisations globally until often the source of the story completely disappears. 
This situation surely gives some sort of credence to Paul Dacre’s argument. Whatever one might think of the Daily Mail, at least his idea of a ‘kite-mark’ brand for journalism allows a future for real ‘reporting’. After all, despite the existence of hundreds of thousands of news organisations globally, most people are still relatively loyal to a few established brands. It is telling that MailOnline and the BBC are still the most popular deliverers of news in the UK. 
Yet to claim that outlets such as Mail, Guardian or even the BBC are entirely or even primarily ‘reporting driven’ is a fallacy. Moreover, who gets to regulate what constitutes good reporting? Dacre has suggested that this kite mark be self-regulating but is that not, like many independent bodies, essentially the same as cronyism? Where would this ‘self-regulated kite mark’ leave upstarts like The Huffington Post? The newspapers would like a mark of journalistic quality to guarantee them privileged access to police reports and so on. They also want the government out of the business of regulating the press. Yet this is surely contradictory. By allowing a fatuously self-regulated group official access to privileged information, the government will be involved whether they like it or not and if there is one thing we really do not need, it is the government, especially spooky Labour shadow cabinet ministers suggesting that bad journalists should be ‘struck off’. 
There has not been a single suggestion for how the press should conduct itself in this enquiry that has not come with a whiff of desperate nostalgia. They are fighting less for some debatable notion of press ethics than they are for their own lives. There are no laws that could have prevented last years scandal that are not already in the books. If anything, we could do with less rules, especially in regards to UK libel law. 
Wouldn't mind seeing a bit of this. 

What we are seeing as a shift of power. Whilst it is true that most people still use formal news organisations, they were far from the first to report on the Arab spring, the financial crisis and so many other stories. They act as a useful filter for information, a quality control, but here their position is as precarious as ever. If they do not provide us with what they want, they will swiftly decline to be replaced by something new. In some ways that is all the regulation we need. That is until you look and see what sort of news is most popular. But to fight our new world is to be like King Canute fighting the incoming tide. Useless. 

1 comment:

  1. It's ultimately going to have to be that either newspapers trade off their standards of providing 24 hour news and commit to analytical journalism or that they continue as they are and battle into an era of bartering, redundancy and liquidation.

    Nice article.