Unemployment increases to 2.62 million in three months. Youth unemployment is now more than one million. Female unemployment is at its highest in 23 years. The jobless rate overall is 8.3%. Britain’s economy could continue to stagnate well into next year. The global outlook is worse. The London Stock Exchange has seen a 79% increase in pre-tax profits to £179.7 million. Eurozone inflation remains at 3% because energy costs remain high.
How do I know all this? Not by reading documents from the Office for National Statistics. Not by phoning the Bank of England Governor for a chat. Not because I have a friend who is the friend of a broker. Not because I had a chat with David Cameron or a call from my energy supplier.
I know this thanks to the work of journalists. The BBC specifically in this case. Meanwhile all journalism is being attacked because of the misdeeds of a few.
It’s no joke that people’s phones were hacked and that information used for stories in a profit-making publication that saw media tyrants enjoying the sort of lifestyle the rest of us associate with repeats of Dallas. It’s no joke that journalists on those publications felt this was either acceptable or expected of them.
But it’s also not what all journalists do. It isn’t a problem within the journalism industry as a whole. For the general public to scapegoat journalists, fear journalists, not trust journalism is to give the powerful more power than you can ever imagine. We’re needed to ensure people are informed, properly, accurately, honestly informed.
I see no reason why all doctors should be feared following Dr Shipman’s case and no reason why someone at Angler’s World would need to tap a phone. I see no reason why staff would be blamed for the bullying boss of any other multi-million pound corporation and I don’t believe for a second that someone at Timber International sends private investigators off to get juicy snippets. I don’t think reporters at your local paper would even consider using an investigator – when half the fun is investigating worthwhile stories yourself.
For the most part, those in power are enormously protected. When I started as a trainee reporter … wait, while I move my Zimmer frame … I was able to phone the leader of the council directly. I turned up at police stations for talks with the chief. Public Relations had not got to a stage where it not only protected people but fabricated its own stories to promote a certain person or event: I’ve written inaccurate information having been provided it by someone in a press office who had their own agenda and I’ve been angered by being tricked.
NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet has suggested that journalists are scared to speak up at the Leveson Inquiry and the union is now with inquiry team to ensure that journalists who wish to contribute can do so in confidence, protected from retribution by employers. She says:
“The NUJ is making a good deal of effort to identify journalists to give evidence and to share their experiences with the Inquiry.
“However, the stark reality is that in many workplaces there is a genuine climate of fear about speaking out. In order that it is not simply those who have retired, or who have been made redundant and left the industry, who feel able to make a contribution we are working with the Inquiry team to ensure that journalists who wish to contribute to the Inquiry can give their testimony in confidence, to afford them protection from retribution.
“The fear is not of immediate punishment but of finding that a few months after your Inquiry ends a journalist who has spoken out may find herself on a list of redundancies.
“The reality is that putting your head above the parapet and speaking out publicly is simply not an option for many journalists, who would fear losing their job or making themselves unemployable in the future.
“In our experience, that fear has been a significant factor in inhibiting journalists from defending the principles of ethical journalism in the workplace – and in media organisations hostile to the concept of trade unions there is a particular problem.”
So take a breath before blaming journalists and consider what you would lose without journalism: without intelligent, investigative journalism, the sort of journalism that brought the phone-hacking issue to light.
Most journalists don’t want to write celebrity guff – although Hugh Grant’s misdemeanours was funny. We don’t go into journalism to intimately describe some two-bit celebrity’s battle with the bulge. We sit at the desk laughing out loud at some of the tripe we write that impresses our illiterate editors … or is that just me?
The reality is journalists are losing their jobs every day due to cut-backs as the profit-driven media seeks to ensure more money for its shareholders and owners. (They can join the NUJ here.)
Journalism and our access to information is already under threat. The attacks on our local papers mean we, as readers, risk no longer having journalists scrutinising the cuts of local councils; journalists in court reporting if justice is fair on teenage rioters; journalists reporting the privatising of our NHS; journalists questioning the actions of the police during protests – and this work is too important to allow money-grubbing media owners to take it from us.