Monday, 28 November 2011

The Leveson Enquiry...

As I've been staying indoors due to the cold air making me cough so much, I've seen some on the Sky and BBC News coverage of the Leveson Enquiry in the afternoons.

As a writer, freedom of speech is important. We're all aware that there are writers in the world who are imprisoned, even tortured or killed for writing the truth, having an opinion or just disagreeing with those in power.

So I suppose you could say the fact that the Leveson enquiry is taking place and is broadcast on national tv, shows our country is reasonably healthy in the freedom issue.

Most writers- whatever their form of media- know the rules. Admittedly, one writer's personal red line won't necessarily be the same as the next man or woman. Individual moral codes can't be legislated...

I was speaking to a freelance journalist earlier this year, and our conversation moved to phone hacking as it was in the news at the time.

The view expressed was that it was not just the one newspaper, and that laziness was a contributing issue.

Today there are databases. Information can be gathered with a few clicks of the computer mouse. There's no longer any need or time for journalists to go out into the community and look for the news.

In fact many local newspapers have either closed down, or are satellites of the big newspaper groups.

Celebrity sells. Publishers wouldn't pay millions for the biography of an ex-politician, reality star, or high profile actor, if they couldn't guarantee sales in the hundred thousands... Nor would the shelves of  newsagents be littered with magazines, emblazoned with lurid celebrity related headlines, that keep being bought.

The people who have given evidence to the enquiry- both ordinary and well-known (including Harry Potter author JK Rowling) have clearly suffered from abuse by a minority.

When it is all over and the recommendations are made for the future, I hope it doesn't go too far in restricting what can be written. Investigative journalism is very important in uncovering misdeeds and bad practise.

But something must be done- good journalists should not be tarred with the same brush as the bad journalists.


Gary Dalkin said...

I think a change of attitude, rather than a more restrictive set of laws, would do the trick. It is already illegal to hack phones, obtain confidential information through theft or bribery, etc. What is required is that the law be enforced with effective sanctions.

Banning individuals from earning money from writing for a certain period of time - just as one can be banned from driving - might be one approach. I think there is also the case that 'journalists' who deliberately write stories they know to be untrue, and which are harmful to the people featured in those stories, be held personally accountable for payment of compensation, as well as payment being made at a corporate level.

Carolb said...

Thanks for commenting Gary.
I agree with all you say.

The penalties for printing untrue stories, or those that have absolutely no public interest, need to be severe.

I've read this elsewhere too, the (reading) public need to understand the difference between 'public interest' and 'of interest to the public'.

If there is no market for these stories, then there would be little point in producing them.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Must admit, I haven't been following this much, but I do agree that many excellent journalists are tarred by this brush. Hopefully freedom of speech will remain while underhand and overly intrusive methods are completley banned.

Carolb said...

Thanks for commenting, Rosemary.

Hopefully a middle ground can be found at the end of all of this, that guarantees continued freedom of speech, but clamps down on those who do wrong.

Diane Fordham said...

Good post - would like to write something intelligent here, but I think Gary and Rosemary have covered it well. In regards to the cold air you've been experiencing, it's been rather hot here down under. Would you like me to send over some of our hot weather? thanks for the post x

Carolb said...

Diane, I would love some warm air, it's a little chilly in the mornings at the moment. :-)