ICE blogs

April 28, 2016

Media’s role in challenging ‘criminal state’

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, politics, new books — news_editor @ 1:07 pm

A call for publics to use social media technologies to assert themselves against established authority is made by Dan Hind in his latest publication, The public and the mass.

Hind, author of the acclaimed The return of the public, argues: ‘The public forming platforms would need to have a very different character from, say, Facebook. Rather than monetising their consumers from panoramic surveillance they would generate defined data outputs that would be shared among those who create them. The design would enable us to learn more about what people think, to change minds and have our own minds changed. The emphasis would be on meaningful privacy, public transparency and equality in speech.’

To help inspire a new movement promoting constitutional liberties, Hind looks back to the colonies in the period leading up to the American Revolution. ‘They did so through a discussion of constitutional forms using public meetings and cheap and easily pirated pamphlets. It was a matter of forming new publics for the purpose of creating a new political order.’ Their activities were centred on the publishing industry and epitomised by Thomas Paine’s donation of his royalties from Common sense (1776) to the cause of ending royalty on the continent.
‘Is it so far-fetched to imagine that another wave of public formation, drawing on the capabilities of the software sector and intent on securing individual liberty might develop and distribute the powers needed in a new constitutional order?’

Hind begins by highlighting the distinction made by the celebrated American sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) between the mass society and the public: ‘The idea of a mass society suggests the idea of an elite of power. The idea of the public, in contrast, suggests the liberal tradition of a society without any power elite, or at any rate with shifting elites of no sovereign consequence.’ Elites play down the constitutional significance of their effective control over the communications system. And they panic when ‘the nature of the relationship between elite rule and the communications system threatens to become visible’ as happened following the Chelsea Manning/WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden/Guardian revelations.

The files did not reveal isolated examples of state criminality. ‘They set out the substantial integration of the state and the corporate sector, including the major media, around a project encompassing aggressive war, torture, and the indiscriminate seizure of private information.’
But in the end, Hind is hopeful: ‘The same technologies that permit both mass surveillance and the massive infiltration of the citizen body can be used both to clarify public opinion and establish its superiority over private interests and secret bureaucracies.’

• The public and the mass, Commonwealth; see

March 20, 2013

Little confidence new system of regulation will work: CPBF

The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom has issued the following statement following the recent announcement of a new system for regulating the press

The legal basis for a new system of press regulation gives the national press a chance to commit themselves to a means of properly policing their own behaviour. The CPBF does not have great confidence that they will take this opportunity seriously.

The way it was introduced, by a series of surprise moves in parliament, appears to have thrown the editors into disarray. They are now trying to decide whether to co-operate or to revert to type and refuse.

The new regulator itself is being set up by the office of the Press Complaints Commission. If the bigger, right-wing papers decide to boycott it there will be utter chaos. The editors should remember that it is the conduct of the press, and the press alone, that has brought down this crisis upon their heads. And it is by their conduct and theirs alone that any new system will be judged, not by parliamentary legalities.

The CPBF is pleased that the political parties have taken the issue seriously and persuaded the government to set up the structure. But we will believe there has been a real improvement in self-regulation when we see the first front-page apology or the first million-pound fine, as trumpeted by David Cameron.

It would be even better if there were never any more false, deceitful or cruel stories that might lead to such penalties, but the CPBF has even less confidence in the likelihood of that.

December 8, 2012

Assange: ‘WikiLeaks to continue - despite attacks’

In his most extended interview in months, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has spoken to the progressive US radio show, Democracy Now! from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has been holed up for nearly six months. Assange vowed WikiLeaks would persevere despite attacks against it.

The European Commission recently announced that the credit card company Visa did not break the European Union’s antitrust rules by blocking donations to WikiLeaks. Assange commented: ‘Since the blockade was erected in December 2010, WikiLeaks has lost 95 percent of the donations that were attempted to be transferred to us over that period…Our rightful and natural growth, our ability to publish as much as we would like, our ability to defend ourselves and our sources, has been diminished by that blockade.’

Assange also speaks about his new book, Cypherpunks: Freedom and the future of the internet. ‘The mass surveillance and mass interception that is occurring to all of us now who use the internet is also a mass transfer of power from individuals into extremely sophisticated state and private intelligence organisations and their cronies,’ he says. Assange also discusses the United States’ targeting of WikiLeaks.

‘The Pentagon is maintaining a line that WikiLeaks inherently, as an institution that tells military and government whistleblowers to step forward with information, is a crime. They allege we are criminal, moving forward,’ Assange says. ‘Now, the new interpretation of the Espionage Act that the Pentagon is trying to hammer in to the legal system, and which the Department of Justice is complicit in, would mean the end of national security journalism in the United States.’

• For the interview, see

September 25, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, new books — news_editor @ 9:54 pm

To The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial, edited by Richard Lance Keeble and John Mair (Arima, second edition, 2012)

Page 50 should read:

Whom do the tabloids represent? Let’s hear from Paul McMullan, former News of the World deputy features editor. He told Leveson: ‘Circulation defines what is the public interest. I see no distinction between what the public is interested in and the public interest.’ [Note: In the original version, this quotation was wrongly attributed to Neville Thurlbeck for which we apologise].

McMullan added that the readers ‘are clever enough to make a decision whether or not they want to put their hand in their pocket and bring out a pound and buy it’.

And he hadn’t finished: ‘I think the public are clever enough to be the judge and jury of what goes on in the newspapers and they don’t need an external judge and a jury to decide what should and shouldn’t be published, because if they had any distaste for it, they would stop buying it.’

Journalism is the first very rough draft of history. But it needs to be very accurate all the same. We mucked up this time and send our apologies to Neville Thurlbeck. Do buy the book or order for your library. It is a cracking read.

March 18, 2009

a newspaper and its wartime past

Filed under: News, Headlines, journalism, politics, conflict, human rights, new books — news_editor @ 9:26 pm

The German newspaper publisher, M. DuMont Schauberg, has published a history of its Nazi past. According to Deutsche Welle (via EJC media news), this is the first such historical reappraisal by a German newspaper group. The consequences of the loss of independence were clearly more severe within 1930s-40s Germany than many other places, but I wonder how many other media groups will be willing to follow its lead. History belongs to the victors, but maybe not their own history. I’ve not seen accounts from within the BBC, for example, of its promotion of colonialism, and the official Reuters history doesn’t search very deep either.

July 2, 2008

Beyond churnalism: the brave new world of journalism online

Filed under: ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, new books, seminars — news_editor @ 12:15 am

Optimism shines through as three top writers ponder the future of journalism. John Mair reports on a fascinating debate

Journalism tomes are like buses: you wait for them and then they come along in threes. This summer has seen the publication of three works of substance; Nick Davies’ Flat earth news (see my review in the last Ethical Space), Adrian Monck’s Can we trust the media? (reviewed in the next Ethical Space) and Charlie Beckett’s Supermedia: How we can save journalism and journalism save the world (also reviewed in the next ES). The three authors all appeared on one platform (literally) at the Groucho Club on London at a Media Society mini-debate in June. Fascinating it was too.

Davies is the star of the show. So far Flat Earth News has sold 17,000 copies and generated much debate, some heat and some light. He has confirmed the prejudices of some, annoyed a good many others. Davies is no ingenue: he’s a former Journalist of the Year, Reporter of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year. He used his skills with words to the full at the Groucho debate staying well away from the well-worn ‘churnalism’ theme of his book. Instead, he took out his crystal ball and gazed to the online future - even then hedging his bets. ‘There are too many variables to make any firm predictions,’ he told his distinguished audience, ‘but the old financial model is dying and something needs to take its place.’

That might be the online newspapers. But, he added: ‘Clearly, asking people to pay for content does not seem to be a viable proposition, so newspapers have to rely on online advertising, which is not able to generate anywhere near the revenues that print advertising does.’ This was a circle which was difficult to square.

Davies applauded Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of Guardian Newspapers, and his online strategy: ‘Rusbridger is trying to build a massive global brand with the Guardian and Observer online - and the attractions of this seem clear in terms of the savings from not having printing and distribution costs.’ Rusbridger’s Guardian was moving into international brand cyberspace along with the BBC, CNN, The New York Times and others. ‘You move from being a national newspaper competing for market share with other national newspapers to an internationally recognized information source’ was his analysis of their aim. But he acknowledged the Guardian was a special case because of its unique ownership arrangements: ‘As a trust it does not have the same overwhelming commercial imperatives as the media corporations.’

In this brave new world, others would not be so lucky, or so careful, or so mindful of quality. ‘I think it is likely that with the new financial models required by newspapers in the digital age, though, that the big media corporations will cut corners - in terms of journalistic quality - in order to maintain their profits’. Back to one of his central themes in Flat earth news.

Professor Adrian Monck, of City University, London, is poacher turned gamekeeper. Former ITN and Sky News journalist now heading one of the most prestigious academic departments in the UK and a weekly sage on the Press Gazette; Monck was up-beat. ‘This is a very exciting time to be a young journalist and that’s not just about technology - things like FoI [Freedom of Information] are very new and have very exciting possibilities for journalists which are only just beginning to be explored,’ he asserted.

Monck sees his role as a pricker of the balloon of moral myths. As he put it: ‘The whole problem is trust anyway: not just in the media but in a wider variety of institutions. There is a breakdown of the old sense of trusting a few institutions and authority figures to deliver the truth.’ Because information was so accessible everyone could find things relatively simply and quickly. ‘Take medical conditions, for example - you can read up a lot before you even go to see your doctor.’ Information for all meant more freedom for all. ‘That access to information is extremely liberating,’ Monck argued. The consequences for the information-providers were positive: ‘It means that people are becoming more aware of the issues around journalism…’ and, as a result ‘…there’s certainly hope for all of us!’

Charlie Beckett is the new kid on the journo academic block. Another poacher turned gamekeeper, he’s a former BBC and ITN producer now the founding director of the think-tank polis@lse. Supermedia, his new book, is a closely argued case for ‘networked journalism’ in which the old one way didactic form adapts to the new interactive media world of bloggers, Twitters and more and incorporates them all in their everyday practice. As he puts it in the book: ‘Networked journalism is a process not a product. The journalist still reports, edits, packages the news. But the process is continually shared. The networked journalist changes from being a gatekeeper who delivers to a facilitator who connects.’ He sees the results as enriching. ‘Think about how this opens up the space for a more participatory politics at all levels. Imagine how it can inform a more deliberative democracy. Instead of claiming a special dispensation, the journalist will now become part of a network of responsibilities and relevance. It’s where I have always thought good journalism belonged’. Some manifesto.

Charlie was also upbeat: ‘There is the threat of “churnalism” but I think there is a very healthy future for journalism - the basic business proposition is sound and the demand for information and journalism is insatiable.’ Things were changing and had to change. The public was interested in journalism wanted more, not less. As journalists embraced this idea of public participation, journalism would improve.

  • John Mair is director of events for the Media Society and produced this debate. He is a senior lecturer at Coventry University and a former television producer for the BBC, ITV and Channel Four.

March 12, 2008

Promoting new forms of ethical reflection

Communication Ethics Now, which draws together articles from Volume 2 (2005) of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, is to be published on 15 July 2008. In a foreword, Cees Hamelink, Professor Emeritus of International Communication at the University of Amsterdam, comments: ‘Ethical inquiry needs to be more creative and deconstruct situations that look like dilemmas into configurations of a wide variety of moral options and challenges. We are very fortunate to have such important platforms as Communication Ethics Now for this exercise in new forms of reflection!’

He adds: ‘This book convincingly demonstrates how lively and relevant today’s ethical reflections on communication can be. The chapters of the book cover such an exciting and broad range of topics.’

Edited by Richard Keeble, joint editor of Ethical Space, the 25 chapters are divided into five sections. In the first, which focuses journalism ethics, John Tulloch examines the British press’s coverage of the CIA torture flights (better known as ‘extraordinary rendition’) while Julie-ann Davies reports on the media’s increasing use of anonymous sources. Jane Taylor takes a particularly unusual look at the media’s obsession with celebrity focusing on the coverage of Carole Chaplin, Cherie Blair’s ’style guru’ and broadcaster, novelist and columnist Libby Purves expresses outrage at the media’s daily diet of ‘unkind intrusions and falsifications’.

In an international section, leading Nigerian academic Kate Azuka Omenugha explores the representation of Africanness in the British press, Susanne Fengler and Stephan Russ-Mohl express concern over the slump in media standards in Germany while Angelika W. Wyka focuses on journalistic standards and democratization of the mass media in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

In a section that takes a historical perspective on journalism ethics, Jane Chapman’s chapter looks at ‘Republican Citizenship, Ethics and the French Revolutionary Press 1789-92′ while Martin Conboy’s focuses on Wooler’s Black Dwarf, a radical journal of the early 19th century.

Another section on communication ethics and pedagogy draws on papers at the 2005 annual conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics with contributions from Raphael Cohen-Almagor, John Strain, Brian Hoey, Brian Morris, Simon Goldsworthy and Anne Gregory. The philosophical dimensions of communication ethics are explored by Karen Sanders, Hallvard Johannes Fossheim (in an interview with Kristine Lowe) Robert Beckett, Moira Carroll-Mayer and Bernd Carsten Stahl. In the final section on business and communication ethics, Kristine Lowe interviews Paul Jackson, of Manchester Business School.

Editor Richard Keeble, in an introduction, says: ‘The Institute of Communication Ethics (ICE) stresses in its mission statement: “Communication ethics is the founding philosophy for human interaction that defines issues according to their impact on human well-being and relationships.” And it is this caring for people - the desperately poor, the inarticulate, the oppressed - along with a sense that honesty, integrity, clarity, respect for difference and diversity are some of the core principles underlying human interaction and, ultimately, communication ethics that drive the many writings in this volume.’

  • Communication Ethics Now is published by Troubador, Leicester, for £12.99. It follows the success of Communication Ethics Today, also published by Troubador, which drew on articles in the first volume of Ethical Space.

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