Without Journalists, Who Will Fight Our Corner?
Ditch the fake news and let’s get back to what good journalists do best. Report. Uncover. Challenge. Campaign. Give a voice to the voiceless.
When was the last time you slagged off news coverage?
Not too long ago, I suspect.
We are in the age of fake news, politically biased ‘news’, where often we have to search for grains of truth in the words we read, hear and see.
How many of us have been left confused, angry even at Boris’ press briefings, urging journalists to ask the questions we want answered?
Are the press doing their job, really challenging the Government on their Covid plans, simply playing at it, with the headlines already written or is there something else going on? Staged briefings with carefully sanitised questions as part of a mass controlling of the media perhaps?
Could this be part of an overarching plan to demean the press in the eyes of the public and quash their freedom?
No-one can know for sure, but it’s a sad state of affairs and one that makes my journalistic heart weep.
In my journalist utopia, reporters are there to report the facts, not have an opinion (that’s an opinion piece and there’s a place for that too).
Journalists striving to be accurate, fair and unbiased and delivering copy that readers can digest and make up their own mind about. That has a place in my reporting paradise.
By the way, this is not another journalist bashing frenzy. Far from it. I’m sick to death of us tarring every journalist with the same, dirty brush.
Yes, there are gutter lurkers, those out to sensationalise, condemn and distort, with no problem embellishing, even creating stories to fit their biased narrative.
Flying The Flag For Team Human
But that’s not the work of a true journalist. To me, journalists are endlessly flying the flag for Team Human. They are insatiably curious — writers, broadcasters, researchers — with a passion for creating content that educates, motivates, inspires, moves, challenges, connects us.
Journalists can be catalysts for change and the best kind of journalist feels that. Knows the weight of responsibility on their shoulders when they report someone else’s words, always digging deep, searching for the true story and aiming to get it right.
When I was training for my NCTJ qualification (National Council for the Training of Journalists) that awareness became real. It stayed with me during every interview, every article, whether reproducing the words of a distraught murder victim’s mother, sitting on the press bench in court or talking to the local mayor about fighting back against the litter louts.
Accuracy, balance and fairness at the heart of every article. That was the aim. That should never change.
Show one side of the argument, then show the other. Let your readers form their own opinion.
Don’t spoon feed them, or worse still, coerce them with wildly inaccurate copy that creates fear and division.
We know this happens, but it’s not every journalist. There are many more doing great work, who operate under an unspoken journalistic code of conduct.
They’re on the side of Team Human, ready to highlight its every side, good and bad, reporting fairly and accurately so we can come to our own conclusion.
On A Mission
There are journalists out there who carry the torch for unbiased, balanced reporting and as consumers of that reporting it’s up to us to seek those out rather than tuning into the damaging, fear mongering minority.
Good journalists are on a mission to uncover the facts, even if they’re buried under years of deceit and corruption. They research, they work tirelessly, often at their own risk, uncovering injustices and holding major organisations, including governments, to account.
They are prepared to ask the difficult questions, to keep asking them, even when they are threatened and blocked at every turn.
Former Sunday Times Editor, Sir Harold Evans, who died this week, was a British-American journalist who for many journos embodied the best of journalism.
In his lengthy career he led an investigation into the drug Thalidomide and its devastating effect on pregnant mothers and their children, calling for greater compensation for the families.
He campaigned for a posthumous pardon for Timothy Evans, wrongly hanged for the murder of his wife and daughter in 1950. Both were later found to be the victims of serial killer, John Christie.
As editor of the Northern Echo in the 60s, Evans launched many campaigns that had a national impact, including one that led to a national screening programme for cervical cancer.
Was Harold Evans politically motivated? I’ll leave you to decide.
Making A Positive Difference
But did he make a positive difference? Yes, for sure.
And here’s another important thing to be aware of. Behind Harold Evans was a team of journalists putting in the leg work, day after day, night after night. Making those difficult house calls and phone calls. Asking the questions that needed answering, being the bridge between us and the powers that be and holding them to account for their actions or inaction.
That’s still happening now. Behind the scenes, beyond the bright lights of our celebrity exclusives obsession, there are reporters, chief reporters, news editors, editors and publishers reporting on and campaigning for human rights, animal rights, for fairness and justice, taking the flack, wading through the muck to highlight the issues that count.
Every day journalists can and do contribute positively to our world.
They run towards places and people that others would run away from, often putting themselves in danger.
Let’s seek them out and celebrate their work so they can champion our causes, challenge the ‘official line’ and uncover the stories screaming to be heard.
Don’t assume every journalist is out to get you or someone you love.
If journalists are silenced or controlled with hard line restrictions, who will fight our corner? Please think on that.
Asha Clearwater is an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualified journalist who’s been a news reporter, features editor and arts editor, as well as editor of several national business magazines.
Today she coaches SMEs on the art of great storytelling to promote their products and services.
Asha occasionally freelances as a writer for national magazines and is even behind some of the information boards you’ll find strolling through Woodland Trust Forests.
She is also curator of TEDxPeterborough. www.tedxpeterborough.com