Journalists need to restore their status with the public as they battle against cuts and denounce those who have "betrayed" the profession, author and investigative reporter Nick Davies told an NUJ jobs summit in London today.
Davies, whose book 'Flat Earth News' attacked the easy processed news culture of "churnalism," told the summit: "We are not trusted or liked. We are misperceived."
He claimed: "If you ask people to name well known journalists, they will name people who are notorious. I am thinking of people like Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre. These people have brought us all into disrepute.
"Being judged by people on the performance of Murdoch and Dacre is like all Transylvanians being judged on Dracula's behaviour. We have to fight back against it. Our position is similar to that in which gay men and women found themselves in the 1950s and 1960s. They were unable to orchestrate their political strength to change the law because they weren't liked, they were shunned."
Davies said journalists should not be afraid to denounce the small minority who betray the profession and "remove the smear of their behaviour from the image of our profession".
He applauded the NUJ's "Journalism Matters" campaign and said it was vital to show the public they needed reliable, quality news more than ever and that "we need to become whistle blowers in our newsrooms and show how cuts hit editorial performance."
Davies argued that the corporate owners of the news media could not solve the problems facing the industry because "they are the problem". He said "they took over our newspapers, ransacked them for profits and readers lost trust in us" and their solutions to the present crisis were based on the priority of profits not news values.
Davies dismissed the rise of citizen journalism as "like saying if the movie industry collapsed we've got people at home with video cameras. There might be a slight decline in quality." He added that some other countries, like France and Holland, had "crossed the line" and provided public funding for the news media. "It should not go into the hands of Johnston Press but into the hands of working journalists," he said.
Davies ended by saying: "We matter. Most journalists are decent, honest, hardworking people. We should be allowed to do our jobs properly. I believe if we fight we can win and save quality news."
Update: 4:37 pm. Those attending the jobs summit backed a motion calling for a national day of action to defend quality media; a "co-ordinated industrial response" to compulsory job cuts and office closures, including industrial action "across employers"; a series of protests aimed at key company and industry events; and a lobby of MPs.
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