Stand up for journalism …

Still the anger towards journalists continues on Twitter. Some of it is threats of violence, some knee-jerk reactions to other Tweets and some just juvenile vitriol – but it is commonplace.

“”Having a baby will be a celebrities hottest accessory” Are you being serious?! Journalists are beyond the valley of stupid.”

“Hate the press. Hate journalists. I have no respect for them whatsoever.”

I hate journalists! Extremely HATE!”

i hate journalists!!!!!!!!

Most of journalists lie anyway”

At risk of repeating myself, not all journalists write for red top newspapers and those that do are not all excited by seasonal filler stories, fashion, celebrity gossip or any other nonsense they’re told to produce. Not all of them hack phones. *Sighs.*

We need a debate about journalism – not a witchhunt.

The most amusing among the comments are those weakly attempting to politicise their hatred: saying journalists are class traitors, establishment cronies, puppets of the state.

“Journalists are wage slaves telling it the way their neo-liberal masters want them to tell it. #classtraitors”

Then there’re those – sometimes in the same thread – saying bloggers are the future as if independent and political journalism is something new.

These arguments ignore that journalism began among workers writing about their plight, their politics, their fight against the bosses and that, in time, newspapers were bought, sold and created bigger profits for fewer powerful media owners. It ignores that independent journalism is thriving – but isn’t paying a living wage to journalists.

But even when being open and independent we can’t win with some Tweeters:

“I really hate journalists who cover stories and tweet their subjective nonsense. Tweet the story not yr political view!”

“Twitter proves that all you have to do make a lie the truth is repeat it often enough. Embarassing how journalists use it as a news wire.”

Only 45 people have joined the I Hate Journalists page on Facebook, described as: “I hate all journalists, from the funny body movement they make when reporting news, its like they r looking for a spot on the camera, to the psycho bullshit they write. U knw they suck, we dnt mean all just 102% ha! Ha! suck heavily!”

Here people write:

“they make up lies and have their own agenda and cant be trusted and should be murdered. i hate them.

“PLANT BOMBS IN ALL MEDIA HOUSES,,,AND KA BOOM..WE DISINFECT THE WORLD IN ONE GO!!!”

“I heard that over 600 journalists have been killed covering conflicts around the globe since 2001 . . . That’s a good start, but it still leaves too many in circulation.”

There are of course, those who aren’t carrying torches and waving pitchforks:

“When you see the situations journalists find themselves in, it’s amazing there aren’t more fatalities/serious injuries. Respect.”

It doesn’t matter that these groups and comments aren’t all UK-based because the work we do is threatening and threatened the world over.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists 85 journalists and media workers were killed in 2011. They’re our colleagues and they weren’t killed for going through Alan Partridge’s bins.

Few journalists would be intimidated by the moronic comments – and many would be itching to correct the spelling and grammar – but the Leveson Inquiry has sparked a discussion that has been lost in the outrage and moralising.

It strikes me as ridiculous to turn on an entire industry because of the actions of a few. Worse still to blame workers for the actions of their bosses and the owners of the media.

It also strikes me as worrying that the debate about subjectivity and non-partisan journalism is confused, lost amid the demand for the truth no matter what: forgetting that even truth is someone’s version of it.

Journalism and journalists are not being defended adequately enough during the Leveson Inquiry. As some people spot their favourite celebrity moaning about intrusions into their privacy they become emotionally involved and in the next breath they berate newspapers for being filled with celebrity codswallop.

There isn’t an open, honest, intelligent debate about what journalism means – perhaps because, to some MPs, journalism means uncovering the expenses scandal and the Leveson Inquiry means getting the chance to have a go back.

The Guardian now reports that “four groups – End Violence Against Women, Equality Now, Object and rape charity Eaves – are calling on the Leveson Inquiry to move away from addressing the concerns of celebrities and other victims of alleged phone hacking by News International and look at the daily treatment of women, which they say contributes to a society where rape can only be committed by evil strangers down darkened alleyways and where a woman is valued only because of her body.”

I agree that this is something to be tackled but hope the blame isn’t put at the feet of journalists reporting on rape using information from the police and courts. There seems to be a train of thought developing that journalists are responsible for what is printed – that shooting the messenger is acceptable.

When I was a trainee I described a burglar as “vicious” and my editor told me I had no right to write this: it was my opinion, he said, that the crime was vicious and, unless the police said it, I should not write it. He was absolutely right – one of the few times he was, as I recall – but while the police are emotive and subjective journalists will, and indeed in some cases must, report it – just look at the comments from GMP, for which they later apologised.

There are currently many journalists in the UK facing job cuts, newspapers facing closures, local news coverage threatened – and this is a threat to democracy. Worldwide reporters are detained –  and even murdered – for telling the truth, for reporting on more important activities than some pop singer’s wedding and because the work they did was a threat to the powerful.

If we lose journalism – good journalism – we lose the voice of communities, we lose our voice to tackle the powerful. If we stop trusting all journalists we give the powerful free reign to publish whatever they like.

Here in the UK we’ve allowed our newspapers to become trashy – journalists and readers alike. We need to reclaim our media from the few people who own it and to ensure journalism and journalists are not trashed in the process.

Don’t hate journalists or journalism. Instead, seek out the independent newspapers – published and online – where you live. Join the NUJ and fight to defend good journalism and talented journalists. Remember that journalism is not reporting who Alan Partridge has slept with – and that most journalists don’t care what he gets up to either.

When you grow to love journalists again you might want to consider this.

How much money I have: ten pounds until Tuesday, which isn’t bad at all

New Year plans: Cava (a gift), a recovered Chaplin for company, Jools Holland on the telly and a bag of Bombay Mix (I might even put it in a bowl). Jobseekers’ Allowance will not stretch to a double fare taxi home from a party

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4 thoughts on “Stand up for journalism …

  1. I didn’t realise how many journalists are arrogant beyond belief until I started using Twitter. I’m still trying to find a humble, reasonable journalist.

  2. “It also strikes me as worrying that the debate about subjectivity and non-partisan journalism is confused, lost amid the demand for the truth no matter what: forgetting that even truth is someone’s version of it.”

    That’s right on the money! Expecting ultimate explanations ultimately leads to conspiracy theorizing. This planet, and the problems and issues on it, are complex and making up simple explanations is truly harmful. When someone claims to be non-partisan the alarm bells in the reader’s head should star ringing.

    I stumbled upon this blog after reading and thinking about MintPress News: http://www.mintpressnews.com/

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