Editors’ Blog – The changing face of journalism: what is our role?
The News Corp saga rumbles on. Five more journalists – senior editors for the Sun – have been arrested in recent raids as part of the ongoing investigation into phone hacking and other dishonest practices in the press.
The events of the last year have shone a spotlight on our national newspapers, and very few have escaped any sort of scandal. Even the usually faultless The Independent lost Johann Hari after he admitted to using other people’s words in his award-winning interviews.
An Ipsos Mori survey completed in June last year – titled the ‘Veracity Index’ – showed that journalists as a professional group are seen as only marginally more trustworthy than politicians.
‘Professional television newsreaders’, however, remain high up on the index. Although many are technically journalists, they are still seen to possess an integrity that reporters for the old-fashioned printed press don’t, in an age of phone hacking, private eyes and paparazzi.
So where does that leave us? As a student newspaper, our investigations are obviously on a much smaller scale, with much less at stake.
Unlike the national dailies, whose circulation is falling at an alarming rate, we’re lucky enough to have a steady readership and guaranteed funding, although a consistent income is proving elusive.
It may seem that our role is clearer now than ever, as is it more necessary to defend our status as journalists and reporters, to investigate the most controversial stories, to expose hypocrisy and lies throughout our little city.
But is our role instead to be ever more careful, to fold under the pressure of staying ‘on message’ and doing exactly what the university wants?
The answer is in balancing both duties: we are in a sense like any other business, and have to satisfy sponsors and supervisors. Yet we must still be truthful and faithful to our readership, ensuring that we still report the real story.
That is the difficulty of being a ‘highbrow’ publication; we have to investigate, report on and describe factual information whilst avoiding becoming a ‘university mouthpiece’. This is something we feel Palatinate has continually achieved (although our rivals may disagree.)
So how does our role in our community relate to the wider place of journalism in this country?
Well, we firmly believe that although we’re a long way from being professional journalists, we are still journalists.
We chase stories that many Durham students probably don’t know are happening, we deal with Media Relations and PR firms, we talk to contacts and managers and sometimes lawyers, and we have to produce content that is both fair and honest but which also has integrity and purpose.
We’re sure that we share this aim with the majority of journalists in this country, despite recent events, and that, as a profession, it is as vital and as influential as ever.
The fact is, there will always be those who do things for the wrong reasons (or perhaps the wrong things for the right reasons). But it is also a fact that the good journalists as a body do far outweighs the bad.
Whether it’s reporting on a desperate conflict in the Middle East or detailing the effect of a crime on a tight-knit community, good journalism continues, and serves a vital function.
We hope that, in a small way, what we do here and the good practice we advocate will begin to challenge the perception of journalists as dishonest and self-serving.
And yes, we do realise the irony of claiming journalists aren’t self-serving in a editorial dedicated to how important journalists are, but we promise we’re making a wider point here. Honest.