ICE blogs

November 27, 2010

Just gimme some ‘truth’!?

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conferences — news_editor @ 10:18 pm

John Mair, chair of the Institute of Communication Ethics, reflects on ICE’s annual conference in London on 29 October 2010 when a fascinating range of papers dared to ponder the meaning of truth
Friday is a suitable day for penance and thinking about the idea of truth. Good for the soul. I spent the whole day with hackademics at ICE’s conference on ‘Journalism, PR and the problem of truth telling’ ( London.
Fascinating it was too.
Some starters for ten. Is truth a noun or a verb? Is it upper case or lower case? Just what is the truth and whose is it? As Trevor Morris, one of Britain’s two Professors of PR, put it: ‘PR is not a branch of moral philosophy!’ Some speakers, however, thought it should be.
Most amusing and thought-provoking was Chris Atkins, the director of the feature documentarty Starsuckers ( who showed how he had conned the tabloid press in both an amusing way with a fake story on Amy Winehouse setting fire to her barnet in, well, Barnet and in a serious way offering and getting offers from newspapers for the illegal private medical records of celebs based on a fake Harley Street plastic surgery practice. Plus more recently and closer to home spoofing BBC London News (and the ‘quality’ newspapers) into believing there was an urban fox hunting group based in Victoria Park Shoreditch (the ‘fox’ was a dog with a fake theatrical fur coat…). Laughter but hollow laughter at these hoaxes. (You can see Atkins in action at a recent event
Atkins, like Morris, argued that a new by-line should appear in stories to acknowledge the increasing input of PR to them (up to 90 per cent in some publications, according to Morris’s figures). At the end of the piece, an addendum could be placed: ‘THIS STORY BASED ON PR.’ Go figure that!
Truth is always the first casualty of war as Lincoln University PhD student Florian Zollmann and Tim Crook, senior lecturer at Goldsmiths’ College, London, showed in their papers on the reporting of the US assault on Fallujah in 2004 and the similarities and contrasts in the 1930s’ and the current reporting of the forces of war and appeasement. The US and the British media did not come out of both smelling of roses.
Even on the internet, there’s no permanency to truth as Murray Dick, of Brunel University, alerted us to the concept of ‘unpublishing’ where stories on newspaper websites are altered or even removed ex post facto when found to be wrong or dangerous legally. How long does truth last? It withers on the cyberspace vine.
All of us hacks and hackettes (real and manque) aspire to tell ‘the truth’ but do we really know what is and how to get to it? Do we actually need lessons in moral philosophy?

TV ’still failing to portray mental illness accurately’

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 10:16 pm

Prime time television drama still struggles to present an accurate picture of mental illness, a major new study finds.

Making drama out of a crisis, by the mental health initiative, Shift, aims to encourage writers, producers, directors and commissioners of television drama to enter into a debate about these issues and how they portray mental illness on television. Mental health charities, experts and people with mental health problems are keen to join this discussion.

The study looks at three months of TV drama broadcast between 4pm and 11pm on UK terrestrial channels. Researchers found 74 episodes from 34 different programmes that contained mental illness-related storylines. Researchers also spoke to programme makers and members of the public - both with and without personal experience of mental health problems - about portrayals of mental illness in broadcast drama. The report finds that:

- 45 per cent of peak-time programmes with mental illness storylines portrayed people with mental health problems as posing a threat to others;
- 63 per cent of references to mental health were pejorative, flippant or unsympathetic;
- 45 per cent of programmes had sympathetic portrayals, but these often portrayed the characters as tragic victims.

Barry Turner, senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Lincoln, commented: ‘Prime time TV portrays mental illness in a completely distorted and sometimes dangerous manner and escapes Ofcom censure with alarming frequency. This issue represents one of the most serious breaches of media ethics in journalism and TV media generally. There have been some improvements but there is a vast distance to cover, both fictional presentation of mental illness and news coverage is a major contributing factor to the huge stigma still encountered by those with mental health problems.’

- See

November 8, 2010

International journalists back Wikileaks

Filed under: Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 1:13 pm

Journalists from every region of the world have joined to support the whistle-blowing organisation Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange who, they say, have provided an extraordinary resource for journalists and made ‘an outstanding contribution to transparency and accountability on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars’.

The journalists, who come from countries as diverse as Russia and Namibia, and Israel and Indonesia, plus many from Europe and North America, are speaking out publicly after watching a growing campaign of threats and unfair criticisms against Assange and Wikileaks. They say: ‘Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing organisation Wikileaks, is being angrily criticised and threatened for his part in huge leaks of military documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is being accused of irresponsibly releasing confidential military information, of endangering lives of people named in the leaked military reports and even of espionage. Some media organisations have joined in this criticism.’

Mr Assange is being attacked for releasing information that should never have been withheld from the public. ‘We believe Wikileaks had the right to post confidential military documents because it was in the interest of the public to know what was happening. The documents show evidence that the US government has misled the public about activities in Iraq and Afghanistan and that war crimes may have been committed.

‘Has Wikileaks endangered lives? There was legitimate criticism of Wikileaks for not vetting the Afghanistan documents fully enough, with some names such as informers being released. Fortunately there is no evidence that anyone has been injured or killed as a result. We note that Wikileaks learned from that mistake and has been much more careful with the Iraq documents. Overall, Wikileaks’ factual reporting of numerous undisputed abuses and crimes is of far greater significance than the widely criticised mistakes over inadequate redacting.’

The reporters say that since it was launched in 2006, Wikileaks has been an extraordinary resource for journalists around the world, furthering transparency at a time when governments are reducing it. Although it is not part of the media, and does not purport to be, its mission of informing the public and reducing unjustified secrecy complements and assists our work. ‘As grateful beneficiaries of Wikileaks and Mr. Assange’s work, we stand in support of them at this time.’

- The petition has been posted on the site so that other journalists can add their signatures.

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