There should be a register of journalists interests or how to make friends in the mainstream media
5 October, 2007
Lets be realistic journalists do have power. This can be from the decision by a journalist whether or not to put in the press release of a new business into the local paper to The Sun claiming it was The Sun “wot won it” after the 1992 general election and switched support to Labour before the 1997 victory. Now I’m sure that unlike politicians who journalists have been known to criticise for corruption that members of the fourth estate are of total probity and that improper conduct is an idea that would venture nowhere near their impartial minds. I just wanted to make that clear. Unfortunately there are people who want to influence journalists for their own purposes.
The media industry should take the position that their viewers and readers give them a form of power and that should be accountable. If a business journalist is promoting a business, I think it is pertinent for the public to be able to find out if that journalist has shares in that company. If sports journalists are writing stories about a football club it is not beyond the realms of possibility that being flown out of the country in a private jet and put up in a five star hotel could influence the resulting coverage just a little.The public should be able to make judgements about the transparency and ethics of journalists as they are for politicians. It is after all the public who ultimately are both affected by journalists wielding of power and carry the burden of paying for the privilege.
We should however be instinctively wary about state control over the media and I don’t want in any way, shape or form for this idea to be misconstrued as such. That is why the scheme should be absolutely non compulsory. I would hope that such a scheme would be widely taken up by the journalistic profession but it should be up to the public to make judgements about the quality of journalists who don’t want to disclose their interests rather than the state. Why not make it a register of journalists and bloggers interests? Personally I don’t view this site as a news site but there are blogs out there written by professional journalists and indeed bloggers that want to break into the mainstream media so if they want to gain the credibility that would come from proper scrutiny of their affairs then why not? We have nothing to lose save mistrust and cynicism.