Given all the different European press codes and national challenges, what should a European website for recording media transgressions focus on to be most useful?
That was the question at a media bloggers’ seminar in Bristol, organised by the EU-funded Media Act project, I was privileged to attend some weeks back.
Should such a website just feature a collation of RSS-feeds from different European journalist union sites and media bloggers, or should it do regular features to highlight interesting cases? Or something else all together? And could there possible be pan-European interest for media challenges that are unique to England, Hungary or Norway? Can we share best practices, and how could we do that in the most useful way?
Those were some of the questions raised at the meeting.
For my own part, I’m a big fan of sharing both challenges and best practices. Not at least I think it’s very useful to share stories about how we handle various challenges.
A case to the point is the twin terror attacks in Oslo and on Utöya 22/7 and the aftermath.
This was a very challenging and resource-intensive story to cover, 60 complaints have been lodged to the Press Complains Commission of which 49 were unique (some complaints concerned the same issues), 40 have been evaluated and six media organisations have been deemed in breach of the industry’s agreed code of ehics. But also, there’s something about the scope and impact of this story, and the many online innovations created to best cover the trial against the perpetrator.
As VG’s Anders Giaever wrote in one of his many brilliant comment pieces from the trial (my translation): ”Tears are shed at the judge’s table. The defence attorney looks downs and rubs his eyes. Several of the defendant’s attorneys are fighting to gain control over their voices. Journalists are crying. The audience is crying. And of course the next of kin, the families of the victims and the survivors are crying.”
That of course is one kind of story, raising all sorts of ethical issues and conundrums. A very different kind are the kind of cases mentioned by Mediawise’s Mike Jempson where the media perpetuates something blatantly untrue or so twisted it comes close to a lie which could be so hard to live with it results in suicide or other terrible consequences.
There are the ethical issues we all struggle to grasp with in the best possible way, while sometimes failing due to their complexity or because we don’t properly see all the ramifications of our decisions, and those cases which seems like a deliberate obfuscation or plain lie. There are cases of blatant government censorship and laws that seems invented only to obstruct journalists from telling the truth – be it about companies or politicians. Sometimes the ethical challenges are universal, sometimes they are entirely unique to the country in question.
Could there possibly be international interest in a website that focuses on the whole breadth of such challenges? I actually think there would be, seeing how the journalistic community, and that of media academics, tend to be very interested in ethical issues pertaining to journalism in general.
I’m not entirely certain about the best form a website dedicated to such a project should take, and how it best should be achieved in terms of organisation, but I do think a combination of original, case-based, content and RSS-feeds + tool kits could work very well. In either case, it will be interesting to follow the MediaAct-project to see how it evolves.
NB: I'm a bit late blogging about this as I picked up a strep infection at the airport on the way back from Bristol, and went straight from two weeks of strep-induced downtime to moving etc.