At my first lecture at Cardiff today, the word ‘standards’ was mentioned a lot. A hot topic at the moment, it seems.
In the aftermath of further phone hacking revelations, journalists are not renowned for their high standards of practice; and today Shadow Culture Secretary, Ivan Lewis, outlined his plans to rectify this.
Talking at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, Mr Lewis said that some lessons needed to be learned.
1. No one commercial organisation should have such power and control over the media ever again.
2. Self regulation of the press is ineffectual and a new system of independent regulation is needed. As part of this, journalists guilty of malpractice should be struck off.
3. Mr Murdoch should realise that the integrity of the UK’s media and politics is not for sale.
Now, I’m all for points 1 and 3. However, point number 2 is something that would make a lot of journalists squirm. I’m unsure how I feel about it myself, but I understand why Mr Lewis thinks it’s necessary.
The media has the power to completely ruin a person’s life. Just like those in the Medical profession in some ways, though less obviously. But for those whose life has been torn apart, the cruel effects of bad press can cause deep emotional pain like a shoddy operation causes physical pain.
In this light it seems that the all-powerful media should indeed be kept in check, and held accountable where they are reckless with the lives of others.
Adam Boulton from Sky said:
However as most journalists these days are required to complete a Postgraduate course where they will learn about the law, isn’t it fair to treat them equally to other professionals like doctors, teachers and lawyers?
Aside from the issues of power, an independent regulatory body might be a good mechanism for restoring trust in the press. If the public know that ‘bad’ journalists can be held accountable they can be more confident in the fact that what they’re reading is produced to the highest standards. Some people argue that journalists can already be sacked for making errors. But if you ask Rebekah Brooks or Johann Hari, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
A move like this would cause a massive headache to editors and reporters everywhere. It would also require an extensive (and no doubt expensive) regulatory infrastructure to be created. Considering the amount of citizen journalists and bloggers out there in this digital world I’m not sure it would even be possible.
But something needs to be done. I’m not convinced a journo-register is the answer; but somehow the power should be checked and the trust in the media restored.