A publication of the World Editors Forum


Sun - 21.01.2018

Regulating journalists

Regulating journalists

Journalists and politicians are currently mulling over ways in which journalism can be moderated to avoid the kind of unethical practice that occurred at The News of the World - but does anybody actually have any good suggestions as to how this can be achieved?

The phone-hacking scandal has let to public outrage about the fact that a news organisation was operating in such a manner and as a result the British judicial and political systems have been forced to respond. But how?

A selection of inquiries, first by the Culture, Sport and Media Parliamentary Select Committee, followed by the pending public inquiry led by Lord Leveson, has been the response of the Conservative government.

At the recent Labour party conference, a controversial response came from Shadow Culture Secretary Ivan Lewis who suggested that journalists should be disciplined for their lack of ethics by being struck off a register for malpractice and banned from working again. Just like a doctor.

This remark was not a statement of intent, merely an idea. If it works for doctors, why not for journalists?

There are several reasons why this system does not work for journalists, as Helen Lewis Hasteley of The New Statesman points out. To put journalists on a register for malpractice would not exactly encourage freedom of the press, even if the regulatory body is not an arm of the state, as Lewis Later clarified. Any system that stops journalists from ever working for a major publication again is, for many people, a system that is too open to manipulation. The reaction from the U.K. press has not been favourable, as The New Statesman article shows.

Claire Mensch, a conservative MP who is currently sitting on the Culture Select Committee that is investigating the phone-hacking scandal said : "Ivan Lewis must be going for the record for the fastest U-turn in history... it's a little scary that this is the man Ed Miliband entrusts with Labour's media brief".

There have been intriguing ideas about press regulation from journalists too. Guardian columnist George Monbiot has urged journalists to start declaring their financial interests in the name of transparency. He himself has got the ball rolling declaring all his financial interests on his blog. The recent departure of Mike Arrington from TechCrunch, as well as the events of the phone-hacking scandal have highlighted the importance of financial transparency in eliminating conflicts of interest and ethical dilemmas in journalism. Quite how many journalists will be willing to follow Monbiot's intrepid lead remains to be seen...

Sources: The Editor's Weblog, The Guardian (1), (2), Journalism.co.uk , Monbiot.com, The New Statesman,



Katherine Travers


2011-09-29 17:28

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