ICE blogs

December 15, 2008

Ethical Space Book No. 2

Filed under: Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, professional ethics — news_editor @ 7:29 pm

Communication Ethics Now, drawing together articles from Volume 2 (2005) of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, has just been published. 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 on 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 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. For more details see: www.troubador.co.uk. It follows the success of Communication Ethics Today, also published by Troubador, which drew on articles in the first volume of Ethical Space. See www.troubador.co.uk.

Trust under the spotlight in new ICE book (+review by Peter Wilby)

Filed under: Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 7:17 pm

2007-2008 was the annus horribilis for the British media. All terrestrial broadcasters were found to have cheated their audiences through a variety of scams: Premium Rate Calling, fake competitions with results changed to suit the producers - and more. As a result, public trust in the media dipped.

Beyond Trust: Hype and hope in the British media, published by the Institute of Communication Ethics, examines this crucial ‘trust’ issue with lively, opinionated and controversial contributions from a wide variety of experienced and distinguished media practitioners. It places the contemporary controversy in a historical context, examines the implications for local newspapers - and explores the role media education can play in restoring trust. In addition:

  • Anthony Arblaster, former Tribune journalist, argues the case for scepticism
  • Dorothy Byrne, head of News and Current Affairs at Channel Four, claims: ‘TV journalism is so fair it makes Andy Pandy look dodgy’
  • Charlie Beckett, director of Polis@LSE, asks: ‘Can we trust the internet?’
  • Suzanne Franks, director of research at the Centre for Journalism, University of Kent, assesses the BBC’s performances in covering the Second World War and the ‘Troubles’ in Ireland
  • Richard Peel, director of corporate affairs for Camelot, explores critically the often tense relationships between PROs and journalists
  • John Tulloch, professor of journalism at the University of Lincoln, presents a wide-ranging overview of the trust debate in a controversial Afterword.

Beyond Trust (ISBN 978 1 84549 341 7) is edited by John Mair, senior lecturer in journalism at Coventry University and a former producer and director for BBC, ITV and Channel Four, and Richard Lance Keeble, professor of journalism at the University of Lincoln and joint editor of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics. It is published by Arima Publishing, of Bury St Edmunds (www.abramis.co.uk; £ 14.95)


Beyond Trust: Hype and Hope in the British Media
John Mair and Richard Lance Keeble (eds)
Bury St Edmunds, Abramis pp 108
ISBN 978-1-84549-341-7 (pbk)

Trust, everybody agrees, is an important thing for politicians. It’s a jolly bad thing for democracy that our leaders are so widely thought to be incapable of telling the truth and concerned only with getting and keeping power. When those politicians who are perceived as relatively honest are found to be telling lies or making dubious friendships, we say they are ‘wasting their most precious asset’.

But there’s something odd about all this. If trust is such a political asset, why do so many untrustworthy politicians get elected? Harold Wilson, one of the most slippery characters in British political history, won four general elections. Richard Nixon, known as ‘Tricky Dicky’, served two terms as US vice-president, and was twice elected president. Tony Blair, widely known as ‘Bliar’ after the Iraq war, still won in 2005. The politicians thought to be ‘honest’ - Michael Foot, John Major, William Hague, for example - tend to be losers. Kieron O’Hara, in Trust: from Socrates to Spin (2004), reckons that, since Clement Attlee, no successful British political leader has commanded significant public trust.

So does it matter to British journalists and broadcasters that, in their public trust ratings, they are down at the bottom of the league tables with politicians? You might think so: the Daily Telegraph marketed itself for years as ‘the paper you can trust’. The BBC, after last summer’s furores over Blue Peter and other programmes, had 19,000 staff attending its Safeguarding Trust workshops. In this excellent collection of essays on trust, Bob Satchwell, director of the Society of Editors, recalls how his first news editor would scream about losing readers’ trust whenever he got a name wrong. In the media, more than in any other industry, he writes, ‘public trust and ethics make up the bedrock on which brand values must be built’. Indeed, he states baldly, ‘without trust newspapers would not have any readers’.

Does anyone trust the Sun and Daily Mail?
Yet the evidence is ambiguous, to say the least. It is hard to believe anybody trusts the Sun and the Daily Mail, the most successful papers of the past 30 years. The local and regional press, which has always worked so hard to keep community trust, has suffered a more precipitous decline than the cynics of Fleet Street. The same can be said of the US press, which holds inquiries and runs front-page apologies when it gets big things wrong, such as the existence of WMDs in Iraq. And for all the public outcry over rigged polls and competitions on television, the viewers’ appetite for watching and taking part in such programmes seems not to have diminished at all, as another contributor, Matthew Mair, points out.

The uncomfortable truth is that, in the strict commercial sense, trust matters as little to the media as it does to politicians. The public looks mainly for other things in its leaders: authority, competence, an easy speaking style, an empathy with ordinary people. In the media, it looks for entertainment, high presentation values, engaging personalities, gripping stories. In both cases, most people seem to prefer loveable rogues to high-minded saints.

Trust, if it is an issue at all, depends on your definition. What exactly should we trust the media to do? You can trust the Mail to produce good reads and arresting pictures and to speak its mind strongly, even hysterically - but not to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Besides, telling the truth isn’t always the best way of winning public trust. To use an example cited in this collection by Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism, telling the truth about the MMR vaccine (that it didn’t cause autism) would, at one stage, have ‘exposed’ a journalist as a lackey to the medical and political establishment and, therefore, not to be trusted.

Why trust matters - enormously
None of this means that trust in the media doesn’t matter at all. It matters enormously to some people: investors, for example, who read the Financial Times because they trust it to give accurate information on economic and business issues. It matters, in a different sense, to journalists going about their jobs: people won’t give you an interview or let you have a picture of their murdered son if they don’t trust you, and low levels of general public trust account for journalists being excluded from, for example, the family courts. It matters to us all, ethically and socially because, without trust, social relations corrode.

This collection is excellent on how we got where we are and how commercial imperatives, many of them created in the Thatcher era, changed the way TV in particular operates. But there’s an elephant in the room: as a selling asset in media, as in politics, trust is much overrated.

Peter Wilby, former editor of the Independent on Sunday and New Statesman, media commentator for the Guardian

Top peace journalism award for Amy Goodman

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 6:58 pm

Investigative journalist Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, a daily TV/radio news show airing on more than 700 stations worldwide, has won a major award for the show’s peace journalism. Goodman collected the Communication for Peace Award during the international conference of the World Association for Christian Communication in Cape Town, South Africa, 6-10 October 2008.

Amy Goodman draws her inspiration from independent thinkers, artists, activists, journalists and alternative media around the world – those who challenge the powers that be. She writes: ‘Every day, Democracy Now! breaks the sound barrier by broadcasting a rich, dissenting, diverse range of voices. This includes the powerful and the grassroots, the banned, the celebrated, the despised, marginalized and ignored. These are the voices of people fighting to make the world a better, more humane, just, peaceful, and more compassionate place.’

Goodman holds a degree in anthropology from Harvard University and began her journalism career as producer of the evening news show for community radio station WBAI, Pacifica Radio’s station in New York City. In 1991, she travelled to East Timor to report on the Indonesian occupation of that country. There, she and colleague Allan Nairn witnessed Indonesian soldiers gun down 270 East Timorese men, women and children during a memorial procession. Indonesian soldiers savagely beat both journalists, fracturing Nairn’s skull. Their documentary, Massacre: The Story of East Timor, later won numerous awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award, the Armstrong Award, and the Radio/Television News Directors Award.

Breaking the silence

Goodman believes the role of the media is to go to where the silence is and say something. ‘I think the media can build bridges in society between cultures and communities. But we need to hear people speaking for themselves. That breaks down bigotry and the stereotypes that fuel hatred. If you don’t hear the voices of certain people, and you see them being demonized, it becomes easier to treat them as sub-human.’

In March 2004, Goodman obtained the international broadcast exclusive of the return of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from his imposed exile in the Central African Republic to Jamaica. Her coverage of the Haitian story scored more than 3.5 million hits on the web site of Democracy Now!, ultimately forcing the story into the mainstream press in what Goodman describes as ‘trickle up journalism’.

Since 2006, Goodman has been writing a weekly column Breaking the Sound Barrier for King Features Syndicate. She says her column’s focus is to ‘include voices so often excluded, people whose views the media mostly ignore, issues they distort and even ridicule’.

Goodman has published three New York Times best-sellers: The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them (2004) Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and The People who Fight Back (2006); and Standing up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times (2008), each co-authored with her brother, journalist David Goodman.

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