Friday 2 September 2011

UK riots: Should journalists just be bystanders?

An article in the latest issue of Press Gazette asks what's journalism's job in the aftermath of last months riots?

The question is posed by Kevin Marsh, the former editor of the Today programme and of the BBC College of Journalism. He writes: "Is it good enough for us to say it's not our job to help solve problems? That all we do is report, call to account, point out the problems and opine?

"Can we imagine a world where journalists aren't just bystanders? Where it's our responsibility, as it is of other citizens , to help society go well?"

He notes that in the late 1990s a group of American academics and journalists got together to promote "public journalism" - the idea that journalists, as citizens, had an interest in solving, not just describing the problems of their communities.

Advocates of public journalism claimed that the "routine negativity" of American journalism made it easy for journalists only to highlight what was wrong rather than help solve problems.

Marsh adds: "We've already seen pointless negativity around the August theft festival" and "the John Humphrys' pseudo-grillings, asking questions no politician could answer."

He writes: "Journalism that limits itself to reporting vacuous empty political point-scoring, or that endlessly recycles familiar prejudices and easy answers may do exactly what the public journalism advocates argue. Make it harder to think our way through.

"But what if the press and broadcasters - especially local and regional media - saw their role as helping to find the answers? What if we realised that whining on the margins wasn't good enough any more?

"Maybe that would change the way we looked at and reported the deep-seated problems that affect us all.

"And maybe we journalists would find we were relevant, respected and trusted once more."

Press Gazette magazine is only available on subscription. Details here.

UK Riots: Where's the journalism on the causes?Link

No comments: