Archive for November, 2006

Accountability Journalism

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“Accountability journalism” Len Downie of the Washington Post said at the launch of the Reuters’ Institute last Monday, “lies at the heart of democratic society”. So we should applaud the Daily Mail for its front page exclusive on the Labour party funding scam (‘You pay millions in tax to fund Labour’). Given its complexity it’s a brave move to lead on Tim Shipman and Paul Sims’ report about how Labour is allegedly skimming over £2m from local councillors to pay of its debts. It’s just unfortunate that there has to be so much emotive language within the article which confuses rather than clarifies.
Not as emotive as the Independent which leads today with ‘Emergency – The Mixed-Sex Wards Scandal’. Granted, the Independent now calls itself a viewspaper rather than a newspaper, but is this really a balanced front page from a member of the ‘quality press’. How does it compare to the same paper’s environmental coverage, or reports from Darfur?

Written by Martin Moore

November 24th, 2006 at 3:20 pm

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What's Important? You Decide

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Do we have a shared news agenda any more? Looking at the lead stories in today’s national press you’d have to say no. Every paper leads with a different story. The Guardian goes with the proposed withdrawal from Iraq from next spring, ‘Out by Spring’. The Telegraph accuses the government of providing cheap bullets for British troops in Afghanistan. The Independent plumps for genetic breakthroughs, the Times for a lack of flu jabs. The Mail continues the story about BA’s ban on wearing crosses, while the Mirror finds it scandalous that a man on an ASBO was able to stab a young mother. The Sun compares Prince Charles to Basil Fawlty (‘Royalty Towers‘) and the Express… yes the Express’ website has gone down.
What, if anything, does this signify? A slow news day certainly. Maybe a news agenda driven more by readers rather than editors – and a reflection of people’s increasingly discrete agendas. Pessimists view: a splintering society. Optimists view: a better representation of society’s complexity. Either way, if you want to know what’s important in the news today… you decide.

Written by Martin Moore

November 23rd, 2006 at 8:39 am

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History's Lessons

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Who would have thought that Bush’s relationship with the media in Iraq was modelled on Thatcher’s during the Falklands war? This is according to Leonard Downie, executive editor of the Washington Post, speaking last night at the launch of the Reuters’ Institute in Oxford. Downie suggested that the tightly controlled access, and the direction and manipulation of the content were replicated in the preparation and management of the war in Iraq. This is scary for two reasons. First, it indicates how carefully western democratic governments are trying to control the ‘free’ media. Second, it shows what an influence historical models have on future thinking – what are the models of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan therefore going to have on international policy in the next two decades? It goes without saying that American adventurism (aka internationalism) will be very constrained.

Written by Martin Moore

November 21st, 2006 at 8:50 am

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Tribalism and its discontents

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Is the growth of tribalism inevitable? As news proliferates and people choose to consume news only from outlets which conform to their views, are we destined to have an increasinly polarised and intolerant society? That, as Will Hutton suggests in yesterday’s Observer article, ‘The truth is out there… somewhere‘, is the view of the pessimists. This crew of doomsayers ‘say we are living in an era in which objectivity is collapsing, in which the avalanche of information becomes the excuse not to seek after the truth, but, rather, to seek for what you want to be true’.
Well said – but what if you want the truth but don’t know where to find it? What if you’re not looking for news which conforms to your views but just trustworthy information? Your cousin is working in Cairo and you hear rumour of a terrible explosion, so you search on Google for any news about the blast. You find a local news station reporting hundreds of casualties – is it a credible source? You track down a blogger who says they witnessed the blast – did they?
Hutton rightly stresses how urgent the need is to do something about this, and points to the importance of the new Reuter’s Institute and POLIS. But we can’t just think, we have to do something aswell – develop tools to help people, demonstrate the importance of well-resourced, impartial news to society, and nurture the sources of quality wherever they are.
Tribalism and intolerance are the negative side of the information avalanche – dialogue and open-ness are the positive. We have to promote the latter, and fast.

Written by Martin Moore

November 20th, 2006 at 10:09 am

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