ICE blogs

September 25, 2011

Call for papers: Institute of Communication Ethics Annual Conference, 28 October 2011

Filed under: Blogroll, News, journalism, conflict, conferences — news_editor @ 5:29 pm

The annual conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics is to be held on October 28 at the Commonwealth Club, 25 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5AP, from 10 am to 5 pm. The theme is to be “Cops, Hacks and Hackers: Communication and Ethics in the Internet Age”. The on-going “Hackgate” controversy, the rise and rise of Twitter and the implications for personal privacy and journalistic responsibilities; and the Guardian’s use of mobile footage provided by a “citizen journalist” in its expose on the death of news vendor Ian Tomlinson on the G20 demo in April 2009 provide some of the context for the conference.

Papers are invited on a range of issues:

- Ethics of modern (especially tabloid) journalism
- Internet ethics for journalists
- Hacks and police PR: is the relationship too close?
- Super-injunctions and serial philanderers: are there any solutions?
- The long, murky history of journalists’ relationship with the Metropolitan Police
- Is there a special role for social networks in investigative journalism?
- Law and disorder: the coverage of crime in the local media
- What’s the place for an ethically engaged literary reportage in an age of sound-bites and PR-fed churnalism?
- The history of Special Branch’s links with mainstream journalists
- How do journalists cover the crimes of the powerful and the wealthy? Are there consistent cover-ups in the coverage?
- Can internet-based investigative journalism fulfil the watchdog role that the traditional mainstream media have so often failed to provide?
- Has the framing of the WikiLeaks story by the mainstream media undermined rather than endorsed the role of whistleblowers?

Abstracts (of 200 words) on these and other related issues should be sent to ICE director Prof Richard Lance Keeble, of the University of Lincoln, ( before October 2. Papers chosen for the conference will be published in a special edition of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics (which has gained an A ranking in the Australian equivalent of the RAE). Leading figures from the world of academia and the communications industries will give keynote talks to the conference.

Rescuing science from the media

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 5:27 pm

Barry Turner, senior lecturer in law at the University of Lincoln’s School of Journalism, argues that science reporting ‘needs to drop conventional media values’

The portrayal of science in the media has long suffered from a lack of congruity between the values of science and journalism. Science as a philosophy is a search for the truth, not the finding of it; journalism cannot exist without a conclusion. Proper science is about innovation, method and a willingness to accept that for each discovery many inquiries will lead nowhere. Journalism needs to be ‘right’ and, in that correctness, ‘righteous’.

There has, perhaps, never been a greater urgency for the media to cover science. We entered the 21st century with a heady optimism, the decade after the end of the Cold War offered promise of directing science away from more than four decades of ’science for war’ and a peace dividend that could be spent on solving many of the remaining threats to our existence. But then it all went wrong. The forces of anti-science struck back and the press did not live up to the challenge.

The media has failed in a number of ways to propagate scientific knowledge. Science in the press has become anything from a rough and tumble contact sport played between opposing scientific theories (where one must batter the other into submission through a vehicle designed to polarise political and ideological positions) to often facile entertainment.

The current controversy in the media over climate change epitomises this approach. Climate change is a fact: the climate of the world is changing, its causes are complex, perhaps even beyond our current scientific understanding. But our mainstream media prefer the ding-dong debate between those promoting the case for ‘anthopomorphical climate change’ and those advancing the ‘natural climate change’ case.

The idea that the global climate debate can be divided into two camps is absurd but that is the picture our press projects. The reason is simple since it is the model they use in coverage of a whole range of subjects. The world is divided into two opposing camps, right wing and left wing, good guy and bad guy, scientist and anti-scientist. The media love this model because it allows them to indulge in their biggest fantasy of all, that of balanced reporting.

Along with climate change a recent trend has been the creation of the ’super atheist’ now often lionised as a bulwark against religious fundamentalism. This media created dichotomy deliberately ignores the fact that faith and science can live together quite comfortably and that the human instinct for faith is not in every case hysterical fundamentalism and, therefore, incompatible with scientific endeavour.

Balanced reporting in science is a destructive force and at its extreme leads to the absurdities of creationism taught as an alternative to evolution and to right wing politicians in the world’s most scientifically developed country describing stem cell research as if were genocide.

This is not to say that scientific theory should not be challenged: the whole point of science is to question the conventions - but the challenge should be rational not simply dwelling on opposites. The media should robustly challenge beliefs that are not only ridiculous in theory but dangerous in their application.

September 2, 2011

Declarations of interest: An ethical imperative

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 8:32 pm

A senior lecturer in social anthropology at Roehampton University has managed to influence the BBC to change the citation on the web article of a professor to reflect his commercial interests, Barry Turner reports. The professor, Richard Gray, was originally cited as having ‘given lectures on behalf of a number of pharmaceutical companies’.

Following protests from Dr. James Davies, the BBC changed the citation to reflect the detail of the commercial interests omitted from the original citation. The edited citation reads: ‘Professor Gray is a co-author of a book on CBT for psychosis from which he receives royalties. He has also received fees and honoraria for providing consultancy and giving lectures on behalf of Jannsen Cilag, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, BMS and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals.’

A campaign is now underway to oblige the BBC to ensure that it changes its editorial policy on citations. When any expert gives an opinion on products a declaration of interest should be included indicating any payment received or honororia from any companies involved in the production of such products, as is required in all respectable academic journals. This campaign is to be extended to all other media outlets broadcasting expert opinions to prevent surreptitious advertising.

It has for too long been the tradition in the media that when interviewing scientists, especially medical scientists, that the journalist will take at face value what they, as experts, say without looking into the often more down-to-earth reason for their endorsement of a particular product or treatment. All journalists when interviewing experts, particularly medical experts, have a duty to ask the interviewee of any financial or other interests they may have in endorsing a treatment or product.

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