ICE blogs

August 17, 2018


Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, conferences — news_editor @ 3:06 pm

Institute of Communication Ethics Annual Conference and the book launch of Anti-Social Media

26 October 2018, Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ

Social media is supposed to be the big liberator and democratiser of our era; the platform for everyone to use-and abuse. But have we created our own digital monster full of ‘fake news’, bile, bullying, bots, trolling and more? Is ‘social media’ precisely the opposite?

This is the focus of this year’s conference which also includes the launch of a new book, ‘Anti-Social Media?’.

Presentations on:
• Anti-social networking? Social media and punishment attacks in post-conflict Northern Ireland (Faith Gordon & Paul Reilly)
• Open Discourse: a media theory for the twenty-first century (Denis Muller)
• Inspecting nonviolence in mainstream and social media. Actorness and efficacy (Silvia De Michelis)
• Young people’s views on the risks of social media misuse (Holly Powell-Jones)
• Online trolls and the freedom of speech: are the bullies taking over? (Claire Wolfe)
• Hostility Targeted at MPs on Twitter: Using Sentiment Analysis on Large Datasets of @messages (Amy Binns)
• Fighting the hand the feeds you: A quantitative study of the journalistic sources of the left-wing political blog The Canary (Sean Dodson)
• Prioritizing Profit Over Privacy: Facebook’s Research and Privacy Violations Leading up to Cambridge Analytica (Chloe Nurik)

‘Anti-Social Media? - The impact of social media on journalism and society’ is edited by John Mair, Tor Clark, Raymond Snoddy and Richard Tait. Published by Arima with chapters on the death of journalism as we know it; eating the advertising dollar; poisoning the well with regard to politics and to trolling; and business monopoly and regulation.

To join us please complete the attached registration form and email it to or or post it to the address below.

Payment rates
The delegate rate for the conference is:
£60.00 (£5.00 for registered students) - the cost includes a sandwich lunch and the book launch.
Payment can be made in two ways:
Cheque payable to ‘Institute of Communication Ethics’ and sent to the address below
Bank transfer:
HSBC Bank (63 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1XQ)
HSBC - Sort code: 40-28-15 - Account no: 71321536
Account name: The Institute of Communication Ethics Limited

For international transactions: International bank ac number (IBAN) – GB35HBUK40281571321536. Branch identifier code HBUKGB4138D

Please can you make sure it is clear from the bank transfer who the payment is from and that it is for the conference!

I am afraid that, currently, it isn’t possible to pay by credit or debit card. Any queries about the conference or how to pay please email as above.

Any queries please let me know.

Best wishes


July 7, 2018

Sex and Journalism: Beyond the ‘Dirty Dons’ and Randy Royals’ Syndrome

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 10:04 am

Edited by Sue Joseph and Richard Lance Keeble

Paradoxically, while sex is everywhere in the media the research into the coverage of sexuality by journalists hardly exists. A vast body of work considers gender issues (stereotyping, discrimination, the ‘male gaze’, male/female presence in media organisations, strategies for promoting equality etc). But the media’s handling of issues relating to sexuality (consensual intercourse; heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality; feelings about our bodies; sexual feelings, thoughts, fantasies, experiences; prostitution; rape; nudity) is almost totally ignored by the academy.

The text aims to be international in focus – and incorporate studies of both print (corporate and alternative; online and off-line) and broadcasting. Topics in this innovative and important text could include:

• Titillation and sleaze: The tabloid media’s handling of political sex scandals.
• The ethics of covering sex trafficking.
• How the media handles disability and sexuality.
• The activist media’s handling of lesbian/bisexuality issues in Muslim countries.
• Critical studies of the reporting of rape as an instrument of war; sex tourism in Asia; prostitution in Peru etc.
• Analysis of sex advice columns/explicit sex confessional blogs.
• Orwell’s essay on the sexy seaside postcards of Donald McGill.
• Angela Carter’s exploration of sexual issues in her journalism.
• Sex and humour in the media.
• Playboy and the myths of masculinity.
• Social media’s ‘sextalk’.

The text is likely to be published by Bite-Sized Books, London ( It publishes books (paperback and on Kindle) of around 24,000 words for just over £4. The idea is that their shortness means that they are actually read! So we are looking for tightly written, lively, original chapters. All articles will be rigorously peer-reviewed.

Abstracts of 100 words should be sent to Richard Lance Keeble ( and Sue Joseph ( by 1 December 2018. Chapters, of 3,000 words (including references) will be required by 1 May – with publication later in-2019.

June 22, 2018

Mike Kittross: A tribute by Tom Cooper

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 9:45 am

It is with sadness and appreciation that I report that Dr John Michael (Mike) Kittross has passed away in Seattle. Although ‘Mike’ has been retired for many years, he continued as editor of Media Ethics magazine until his final days and was a prolific writer of scholarly books, journal articles, and commentaries. Many considered him one of the top scholars about the history of broadcasting and his book, Stay tuned, with Chris Sterling, was a classroom text adopted coast to coast. Professor Kittross received his Bachelor’s degree from Antioch, his Master’s from Boston University and his Doctorate from the University of Illinois.

At Emerson, Dr Kittross served on the faculty of Mass Communication from 1985 until 1993 and served as Provost from 1985 to 1987. He was known as a sharp editor with an eagle eye. So it was no surprise whenever President Jackie Liebergott reported that she had passed along a new college document to Mike and said: ‘Here’s a red pen. You know what to do with it.’ As a top editor, Mike was also in demand throughout his field and he served from 1960-1972 as the editor of the Journal of Broadcasting before editing Media Ethics and continuing on many editorial boards. He was active in numerous professional organisations and one of the catalysts for the Media Ethics summit hosted by Emerson College in 1987.

Although the Kittross family will be honouring him later in the summer, there will be no public ceremony. Dr Kittross is survived by his son, David, and his daughter, Julia.

March 4, 2018

How to save journalism

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 5:29 pm

By Huseyin Kishi

Our national newspapers pride themselves on upholding the freedom of the press, reflecting their readerships’ interests and acting as the fourth estate. When the lords recently amended the Data Protection Bill, the press argued that it was going to have a chilling effect and limit press freedom.

The debate also highlighted the shift in revenue from advertising in newspapers to relying on the big data and detailed demographics offered by Google and Facebook, who are projected to own 71 per cent of the advertising market in the UK by 2020.

What wasn’t recognised seemed to be the difficulty of ensuring press freedom in the context of advertising and profitability. The liberal image of the press and media as protectors of free speech and debate breaks down a bit when you take this into account. Rates for advertising aren’t cheap. A full page advert in the Daily Telegraph costs £46,000. For the Evening Standard it’s £70,210, and The Times £27,195. Given the large amounts spent on a single page advert, you can imagine the commercial considerations when placing news articles and the layout.

But the generally held view within Fleet Street is that advertising is kept separate from editorial decisions. When this convention is challenged, the results can be dramatic.

In 2015, there was a spectacular fall-out between the Daily Telegraph and its former chief political commentator, Peter Oborne who had recently resigned due to one of its main advertisers, HSBC, influencing its editorial coverage. He noted: ‘…the Telegraph’s recent coverage of HSBC amounts to a form of fraud on its readers. It has been placing what it perceives to be the interests of a major international bank above its duty to bring the news to Telegraph readers. There is only one word to describe this situation: terrible.’

The Telegraph’s response was clear: advertising pays for news but the two are distinct and to question this is dissent of the highest degree.

The orthodox history of the press argues that it was advertising that ensured press freedom from state interference and control. But advertisers are not neutral. In absorbing the costs of the production of news – advertisers expect to be accommodated. For instance, the Daily Telegraph highlighted the Guardian’s own issue with editorial independence in 2015. The Telegraph published an article about its coverage of Iraq that had been changed to appease its advertiser, Apple. Even with the new rebranding, editorial decisions such as the layout or supplements haven’t escaped the watchful eyes of its advertisers which included: DFS, Emirates, Vodafone, Aldi and Volkswagen.

The impact of hosting advertisers means that coverage on climate change, ecological resource limits, the impact of rampant consumerism are put aside. This isn’t to say that they won’t ever be featured or discussed but layout and placement are crucial to ensure that advertisers are kept contented.
Both Morgan Stanley and BP have operated an ad-pull system, in which ‘objectionable editorial coverage’ is flagged and their advertising withdrawn from print publications.

If the press were free of vested interests it would be able to offer the distilled coverage on topics such as climate change, resource depletion, war, food scarcity and environmental degradation. Highlighting the gap in public knowledge, Climate Feedback was established to fact check news around climate change. Other organisations also highlight need for alternatives to the corporate journalism such as Media Reform UK and the Media Fund’s Media Democracy Podcasts.

Given the constant pressure of retaining an online readership, which at one newspaper has led to the ripping off of stories and the prevalence of clickbait, it’s clear the traditional model of journalism isn’t working. A new model of journalism has been established by the Netherlands-based De Correspondent, whose twelve founding principles are worth reading ( In particular, they argue for no adverts or target groups as they trust and respect their paying members to support their journalism.

In the UK, there is Novara Media and OpenDemocracyUK who rely on donations, grants, and their readers to fund them. News organisations trusted by their readerships and informed by ethics instead of profits and advertising are alternatives that we badly need – let’s hope they flourish in the future.

• Huseyin Kishi is a member of the Green Party and a media reform activist. This article first appeared at It has been slightly amended.

February 27, 2018

Declassified documents go online

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, politics — news_editor @ 4:49 pm

Declassified, a new online project containing hundreds of declassified documents on British foreign policy, has been launched by the historian and activist Mark Curtis.

It includes original government documents and transcripts, mainly from the National Archives in London, articles by Curtis analysing these files and online articles (from the Guardian, Sunday Times, Independent etc) that cover such files.

They highlight the UK’s involvement in coups, covert conflicts, propaganda projects, support for repressive regimes and human rights abuses.

Curtis, whose books include Secret affairs: Britain’s collusion with radical Islam, comments: ‘The aim is eventually to build a fully comprehensive and searchable collection of declassified British documents and articles – to make these fully accessible to the public, which has a right to a better knowledge of what has been done and is being done in our name.’

• See

January 12, 2018

Bumper Orwell journal issue focuses on teaching and Labour

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, new books — news_editor @ 5:29 pm

A new, bumper, 148-page edition of George Orwell Studies has just been published featuring nine essays on ‘Orwell and teaching’ and ‘Orwell and the Labour Party’.

Tim Luckhurst and Lesley Phippen examine the 1944 controversy between Orwell and pacifist Vera Brittain in their chapter ‘Obliteration Bombing and the Tolerance in Wartime of Dissent in Weekly Political Publications’. Henk Vynckier explores the issues which arose when he dispensed with traditional textbooks and adopted e-texts and other online materials while teaching Orwell in Taiwan; Tim Crook investigates Orwell’s own experiences teaching; Jon Preston draws on his experience in the classroom to show how studying Animal Farm can help students discover their authentic voices; and Philip Palmer, in an article titled ‘The Rhetoric of Doublethink’, argues that Orwell was a visionary who attacked lies through a ‘plain’ prose that rang true in every phrase, yet he also used rhetorical strategies with skill and creative guile.

Finally, in this section, Sean Cubitt analyses how the theme of hate depicted in Nineteen Eighty-Four has been transformed in various representations – such as in the BBC’s live television production by Nigel Kneale and Rudolf Cartier in 1954 and in Ridley Scott’s commercial for Apple computers in 1984. He concludes: ‘The hate of today is not to be found on television, in advertising campaigns or festival documentaries but in Twitter storms and social media bullying.’ All these pieces follow on from the symposium held at Goldsmiths, University of London, in June 2017 on ‘Teaching Orwell’.

In the second special section, John Newsinger considers Orwell’s attitudes to the Labour Party and, in particular, the Atlee government; Philip Bounds looks in detail at Orwell’s assessments of Labour leaders Cripps, Bevan and Attlee while Paul Anderson asks: ‘So what kind of democratic socialist was Orwell?’

Completing the bumper issue, Oriol Quintana, in analysing Orwell’s Coming Up for Air (1939), asks whether it is a call for action or passive resistance and Harry Bark contributes a fascinating paper: ‘Death, Hegemony and Masks: Reimagining Theories of resistance Through the Writings of George Orwell.’

• George Orwell Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1; ISSN 2399-1267; details on subscriptions available at

December 15, 2017

Scandal of jailed journalists

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 5:15 pm

Some 262 journalists are currently in jails around the world – an increase on last year’s historical high of 259. Turkey is again the worst jailer, with 73 journalists imprisoned for their work.

China and Egypt again take the second and third spot, with 41 and 20 cases respectively. The worst three jailers are responsible for jailing 134– or 51 per cent– of the total. Nearly all the jailed journalists are local and the per centage of freelances is higher this year, accounting for 29 per cent of cases.

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, commented: “In a just society, no journalist should ever be imprisoned for their work and reporting critically, but 262 are paying that price. It is shameful that for the second year in a row, a record number of journalists are behind bars. Countries that jail journalists for what they publish are violating international law and must be held accountable. The fact that repressive governments are not paying a price for throwing journalists in jail represents a failure of the international community.’

Other leading jailers of journalists in 2017 are Eritrea, with 15 cases, and Azerbaijan and Vietnam, with 10 cases each.

Two journalists jailed in China, including Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, died just weeks after being released on medical parole. In Egypt, CPJ found over half of the jailed journalists had health conditions.

The jail census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups, such as several Yemeni journalists CPJ believes to be held by the Ansar Allah movement, known as the Houthis. These cases are classified as ‘missing’ or ‘abducted’.

• See

December 12, 2017

How conflict is covered

T. J. Coles reviews Covering conflict: The making and unmaking of new militarism, by Richard Lance Keeble (Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, Abramis)

Richard Keeble has written a book about the anti-democratic, frequently deceptive ‘military/industrial/intelligence/media complex’ (p. 2) A second, updating edition of one of his previous books, Secret state, silent press (p. 1), the book is more a critique of the underlying structures of mass media and journalism than it is of individual journalists, many of whom do a fine job within the limits imposed upon them by the nature of the mass market and, of course, the secret state. By 1990, the UK had more than 100 laws prohibiting the disclosure of supposedly sensitive information, making it one of the most secretive states in the word (p. 23).

Keeble’s book is as much, perhaps more, about omission in mainstream media as it is about content: for instance, the lack of the coverage of underlying causes of war and of civilian casualties. This creates a framework in which power is unaccountable and government decisions are undemocratic.

In Chapter One, Keeble argues that the ‘old’ militarism was conscription-based. But, with the triumph of the Labour Party after World War Two, and, perhaps more importantly, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the UK and US, a ‘new’ militarism gradually emerged. Private media, linked in various ways to the deep state, smeared any moves from sectors of the public and the Labour Party (then under Michael Foot) towards unilateral nuclear disarmament (p. 19).

As British institutions appeared to become more democratic, the military, particularly in light of its new high-tech developments putting humans increasingly out of the loop, became more secretive. Parallel to these developments was the evolution in media of war as a spectacle. Perhaps the most important development was the manufacturing via institutional structures of faux audience participation. By this, Keeble (pp 7-8) refers to the ‘live’ nature of war coverage thanks to satellite television, as pioneered during the coverage of the Gulf War 1991. As secrecy intensified, commercial secrecy in the international arms trade, where Britain was and remains a big player, also grew (pp 18-19). Keeble argues that the state ‘was seen as vulnerable to threat from technological advances within the media. In the event, the US invasions of the 1980s culminating in the attack on Iraq, showed that the new media technologies were, in fact, highly vulnerable to manipulation by the state’ (p. 14).

Chapter Two concerns journalists and the secret state. In this chapter, Keeble, careful to emphasise that the security state is not monolithic, reviews the deep state nexus, documenting the incestuous connections of the police, military police forces, special forces, foreign intelligence agencies and the infrastructure that holds them together. Keeble then goes on to discuss those journalists who are connected in one way or the other to the intelligence services. Keeble’s subchapter on what he calls the ‘conspiracy theory conundrum’ (p. 65) argues that the entire military-industrial-media complex operates to a significant extent on conspiracy. Yet when researchers ‘highlight its significance [they are] accused of lacking academic rigour and promoting “conspiracy theory”’. Keeble concludes, cautiously, that ‘conspiratorial elements have to be acknowledged’ at times, when discussing media and war reporting.

Chapter Three concerns what Keeble calls an emergence of a new militarist consensus. There was a near-consensus against war in the US among the general public but, as Keeble notes, the public has become increasingly alienated from the workings of the state, due in part to the media. By the time of the Gulf War 1991, coverage had changed to distance audiences at home from the horror of carpet bombing (or ‘precision bombing’ in the propaganda nomenclature) abroad. In the UK, the Labour government under Jim Callaghan had prepared for an invasion of the Falklands Islands/Malvinas by Argentina (which claims the islands as its rightful, post-colonial territory) as early as 1977. The Falklands War of 1982 ‘set a hugely significant precedent’, says Keeble (p. 93), helping in the creation of a ‘permanent war economy’ (p. 95). Photographs, film and reports were deliberately delayed by the military, correspondents were embedded in heavily controlled pools with the armed forces while other journalists were blacklisted.

In Chapter Four, Keeble studies the cases of the US’s Grenada invasion of 1983 and the ‘Irangate’ scandal of 1985-1987. The idea that instant global communication allows unprecedented, uncensored access to war coverage is a myth, he suggests. In Grenada, a carefully managed media campaign succeeded in covering up the number of casualties, presenting the invasion as an instant response to alleged transgressions, exaggerating the threat of Grenada to US interests and selling the war to the American public with a 71 per cent approval rating. ‘Irangate’ or the Iran-Contra Affair, involved elements of the US military illegally selling arms, via conduits in Israel, to Iran, one of America’s official enemies, to fund its illegal activities in Nicaragua. The Pentagon-led media strategy over so-called Low Intensity Conflict ‘prioritised covert warfare’ (p. 121), making journalistic investigations very difficult. Interestingly, no significant investigation, both at the media or governmental levels, followed the revelations of the foreign editor of Hearst newspapers, John Wallach, concerning ‘Irangate’ in June 1985. It was only after a Lebanese newspaper reported on the events in November 1986 that the international media chased the story.

In Chapter Five, Keeble argues that the new militarism, being contingent on public ignorance of Third World dynamics, sought to portray Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, as a villain in a simplistic struggle between good and evil. When Saddam was an ally of the US and Great Britain during the 1980s, media coverage of his atrocities was ‘restrained’ (p. 128). Keeble gives the example of Halabja 1988, when 5,000 Kurds were slaughtered. ‘Little blame was levelled personally at Saddam Hussein in the press’ (ibid). When Saddam became the enemy, he was rapidly labelled ‘Hitler’ (p. 134).

Chapter Six highlights the lack of media questioning concerning the motives for supporting dictators and arms sales, and in waging war. Sticking with the example of the Gulf War 1991, Keeble notes that few reports of the period asked what the war was really all about. The veneer painted by the media was that of Saddam raving against Kuwait for stealing Iraq’s oil and blaming US allies for driving down oil prices. A deeper context is imperialism, particularly British, given the UK’s role in the war. Keeble goes on to note ‘secret’ wars (i.e., those ignored or marginalised in the corporate media) in the decades leading up to the Gulf War. These include Oman (1968-1977) and the inevitable collusion with the expanding US empire.

In Chapter Seven, Keeble argues that the media shaped public opinion about war in several ways. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, ‘Most of the press had no time for talk – they wanted war and right now’ (p. 165). The tabloids’ warmongering was predictable. But what were the motivations of the so-called left-leaning press? Keeble quotes the Guardian’s then-principal feature writer, Martin Woollacott, who says that his colleagues were divided over how to cover the war, referring to diplomacy versus military action. By the end of August 1990, however, the majority of Independent articles supported war. Keeble then goes on to document how newspapers sought to exclude critical voices. On the manipulation of public opinion, the supposedly more liberal media constructed polls as to avoid the option of peace negotiations and even asked the public if they would support assassinating Saddam (p. 176).

Chapter Eight concerns the modes of censorship employed by the Ministry of Defence and the media itself in (mis)reporting the war. Correspondents were ‘pooled’ in hotels and carefully managed by the US military. ‘The highest contingents in the press corps’ were American and British (p. 184). The non-pooled journalists were expected to stay in hotels. Learning their lessons of embedding in the Falklands War, direct censorship was not needed because journalists had ‘bonded’ (p. 191) with their military counterparts and were thus less likely to write critically about them.

Returning to the theme of high-tech war, as ushered in by the nuclear age, Chapter Nine traces the history of ‘nukespeak’ (Chilton quoted on p. 198) to the development of so-called high-precision weapons as used in the Gulf War 1991. Coupled with the other factors analysed in previous chapters, the media’s handling of high-tech weapons further sought to dehumanise Iraqis.

Chapter Ten argues that the casualty disparity between the allied forces and the Iraqi forces was so large that it was not really a ‘war’: more a series of massacres of a largely defenceless ‘enemy’. On the occasion that civilian atrocity stories did make it to print or television, the mantra was to blame Saddam Hussein.

Chapter Eleven moves on from the Middle East and into Somalia and Yugoslavia. As the United States launched Operation Restore Hope in 1992, supposedly to end a famine which was ending anyway, the US government ensured its business relations with US energy giants operating in the country remained secure. In Serbia in 1999, NATO launched a supposed humanitarian war to save Kosovar Albanians, some of whom (such as the Kosovo Liberation Army) were linked to al-Qaeda and trained by US and British forces. In defence of the KLA, the US-led NATO bombed Serbia, preparing the way for the independence of Kosovo nearly a decade later in 2008. Just as the US blamed Saddam for US-led atrocities in Iraq, Serbia’s President Milošević was blamed for what NATO did to his country.

In Chapter Twelve, Keeble argues that the Gulf War of 2003 was a ‘myth’ (p. 265): the threat posed by Saddam and his supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction was almost entirely a fabrication, the Iraqi armed forces collapsed quickly, and massive fire-power (‘shock and awe’) quickly destroyed the civilian infrastructure. Media management was essentially a repeat of the Gulf War 1991 and Serbia 1999: the Pentagon devised a large-scale (dis)information campaign, the secret state operated without public or media oversight and, disturbingly, the number of Western journalists killed in the war reached 15.

The concluding Chapter Thirteen is unusual in that it criticises the pretext for war in Afghanistan in 2001: something that many scholars, including those critical of the invasion of Iraq 2003, failed to do. The war script – a deadly enemy, precision weapons, etc – was rehashed, this time to more effect than in previous conflicts due to the then-recent 9/11 atrocities which convinced most Britons and Americans that al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, together with their Taliban sponsors, must be destroyed. As the US-British occupation continued, the enemy used ever-deadly methods of resistance, or terrorism as Western media called it. These included suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices. In 2010, Britain and France signed a defence cooperation treaty. Within a year, both countries joined the US via NATO in destroying Libya. Keeble also deals with the 2013 war, led by France, against elements operating in Mali.

In the Conclusion, Keeble summarises the grim reality of war: civilian casualties, soldier casualties, and financial expenditure, which could have been invested in more progressive programmes at home. The high-tech, highly-controlled informational nature of the so-called new militarism has morphed into ‘disaster militarism’ (p. 315).

Keeble’s book balances accessibility with scholarly rigour. It is an important contribution to the literature concerning media coverage of conflict and the growth of an increasingly out-of-control security state.

Dr T. J. Coles is a guest of the School of Art and Humanities at the University of Plymouth, UK, and the author of several books, including Britain’s secret wars and Fire and fury (both Clairview Books). His latest, Human wrongs (Iff Books), is due to be published in 2018.

November 3, 2017

Sky Sports News executive editor says ‘Sky sources’ ticker can refer to information from one source

By Louise Byrne

Source: Press Gazette

The executive editor of Sky Sports News, Andy Cairns, said the phrase “Sky sources” used in the breaking news ticker sometimes refers to information from just one source rather than at least two sources which might have been best practice in the past.

Speaking on Friday at a conference on ethics and sports journalism, Cairns said the growing phenomenon of “unnamed sources” was not ideal, but was in part the result of the heightened competition to be the first with the news.

“We’ve had to respond. I think for a while, most news organisations followed the two sources rule for any story. With the pace of news and increased competition, that’s not workable now for every story.”

Cairns conceded that it happened “too often probably”, but said there was still careful evaluation of a source based on asking the right questions and an extensive contact base.

He also said there was now a disturbing middle ground occupied by news and gossip websites, or Twitter accounts with large followings, where different rules applied.

Sky Sports News had set up a special team to break original news and verify quickly stories on social media.

“The challenge comes when a rumour gathers momentum on social media. We can’t ignore it so we are honest with our viewers… that we are checking to verify and that we will update as soon as we can.

Cairns – who was speaking at the Institute of Communication Ethics (ICE) Annual Conference entitled: Sports Journalism: ethical vacuum or ethical minefield? – added that the increasingly tight control exercised by press officers and clubs, who were often running their own media channels, was also part of the problem.

You can continue to read the full article via this link:

September 19, 2017

‘Fake news has been around for over a century’

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 11:59 am

The current focus on ‘fake news’ belies the fact that the manipulation of beliefs through propaganda has been a persistent feature of the political landscape for over a century, Professor Piers Robinson, of the University of Sheffield, said recently in a talk accompanying the exhibition, After the Fact. Propaganda in the 21st Century, at the Lenbachhaus, in Munich. Below follows an article written by Professor Robinson summarising his talk.

Political debate today is frequently dominated by controversy over ‘fake news’ and we are regularly informed that various actors, from the ‘alt right’ to the ‘alt left’ and Russia, are targeting Western publics with this form of manipulated and distorted information. The focus of the fake news debate, however, belies the fact that the manipulation of beliefs through propaganda has been a persistent feature of the political landscape for over a century. In fact, the art of propaganda was widely debated in the first part of the 20th century with key thinkers such as Edward Bernays, Walter Lippman and Harold Lasswell openly advocating its use in order to shape public beliefs, behaviours and to manufacture consent (Lippman).

Since then, however, new terms have come into circulation to describe propaganda. As Bernays explained, ‘propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans … using it [during World War One]. So what I did was to … find some other words. So we found the words Counsel on Public Relations’. Today a euphemism industry abounds and terms such as strategic communication, perception management, public diplomacy, political marketing, advertising, information operations and psychological operations (psy ops) have been added to public relations. In short, propaganda has been successfully rebranded and our awareness of the extent to which we are all subject to it has been blunted.

Propaganda can have huge consequences. A now seminal example of contemporary propaganda was the campaign waged by the US and UK governments to persuade everyone that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). It is now well documented that the US and UK governments manipulated intelligence in order to present Iraq as much more threatening than it actually was. Sir John Chilcot, Chair of the recently published six-year-long Iraq War Inquiry, stated to the BBC that Prime Minister Tony Blair had not been ‘straight’ with the British public. The war in Iraq has killed hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps more, and the conflict continues to this day. But it now appears likely that a much larger deception has been at work. Chilcot’s report revealed damning indicative evidence that, from the start, a plan to attack multiple countries was put into play immediately following 9/11. Chilcot’s report published Bush-Blair communications from the immediate aftermath of 9/11 which discussed phases one and two of the ‘war on terror’ and indicated debate over when to ‘hit’ countries unconnected with Al Qaeda, such as Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Remarkably, Chilcot also reported a British embassy cable issued just days after 9/11 which stated ‘the “regime-change hawks” in Washington are arguing that a coalition put together for one purpose (against international terrorism) could be used to clear up other problems in the region’. By releasing these documents, Chilcot corroborated former Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark’s claim that he was informed immediately after 9/11 that seven countries, including Syria and Iran, were to be taken out in five years. All of this evidence provides powerful initial confirmation that the so-called ‘war on terror’, sold to Western publics as a fight against Al Qaeda-linked terrorism, was actually about pursuing geo-strategic interests via a ‘regime change’ strategy. Moreover, there are reasons to believe that the current wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen are linked, relatively directly, with this same strategy. As such, it appears increasingly likely that the ‘war on terror’ narrative has performed significantly, perhaps mainly, as a propaganda strategy designed to mobilise Western publics to support regime change wars that have little to do with the terrorism associated with 9/11. This, potentially, is a major deception and millions have died as a result.

Propaganda, then, is not something from the distant past, or something that is the sole preserve of political extremists or the latest ‘official enemy’. It is alive and well right in the heart of our own democracies. What needs to be done? Within academia, the disciplines of political science, sociology and communication studies need once again to take propaganda seriously, and start to determine the extent to which the very functioning of contemporary liberal democracy has been undermined by it. More generally, we all need to think critically about the information we receive. In practical terms this means that we should not blindly accept what we are told by powerful political actors. Just because we are told by our governments that Russia is threatening our security and interfering in our elections does not necessarily mean that it is true. We also need to learn to move across different information sources, including mainstream/corporate media and alternative/independent media, and to develop the media literacy skills necessary to help discern the difference between manipulated information and that which can help us understand better a particular issue. Neither mainstream/corporate news media, which is so frequently a conduit for the propaganda campaigns initiated by powerful political actors, nor alternative/independent news media, hold a monopoly on the truth. They are all, to varying degrees, potentially useful sources of information and all should be consulted.

Most of all, we need to use our intelligence and develop confidence in our own judgments. But it should not just be down to us, the public, to fight our way through the propaganda. Powerful actors, and in the West this usually means governments and big business, need to be pushed to improve the quality of their communication strategies so that there is far less deception and so-called ‘spin’ than there is today: higher ethical standards need to be campaigned for.

Finally, the fight against propaganda needs to be understood for what it is. It is a struggle against manipulation by powerful actors and a battle for democracy and accountability. Of the major challenges facing us all in the 21st century, from war through to climate change and poverty, accurate information is essential to informed and open democratic debate. To achieve that, we must learn to navigate the highly propagandised information environment that now exists, and start to challenge the institutions and organisations that have become so reliant on propaganda in order to manipulate our beliefs and order our conduct. This is a huge challenge, but it is an essential and urgent one.

• Professor Piers Robinson is Chair in Politics, Society and Political Journalism in the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield (UK). Previously, he was Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Manchester (2005-2011) as well as Lecturer in Political Communication at the University of Liverpool (1999-2005). His research focus is the nexus of communication, media and world politics with particular attention on areas and strategies of conflict and war. For this talk see

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