I’m getting used to these online events. On Tuesday, I attended an online book launch where a distinguished panel discussed issues relating to ‘Brexit, Boris and the Media’.
A few sound issues and overzealous use of the mute button aside, it was fascinating stuff.
While I wouldn’t describe the proceedings as a moan-fest, I came away with a sense of a growing crisis in journalism and democracy, and that the two are linked.
In reporting the big issues of the day, some sections of the media lacked objectivity and journalistic rigour and were too easily played by spin doctors within an overly-cosy Westminster bubble.
The result is an under-informed public, vulnerable to the tidal wave of misinformation they find on social media.
The mainstream media can take the lead by holding the government (not just the current one) properly to account. The following six point approach, which I scribbled on the back of an envelope while listening to the eminent panellists, would do the trick:
- Be sceptical: Never lose sight of a politician’s agenda and assess everything they say in light of that.
- Be independent: The lobby system tends to breed dependency. Toe the line or miss out on the scoops. Find a way to maintain objectivity.
- Don’t be partisan: Scrutinise all politicians equally and report what you find, not what they want you to see.
- Report truthfully. Err… really shouldn’t need saying.
- Be an educator: Your readers need you to explain complex issues clearly and intelligibly. Tariffs and trade might be dry subjects, but they’re important.
- Build trust: Be seriously good at what you do, write well, report truthfully, be even handed and do it consistently day in, day out.
The 18th century French philosopher Joseph de Maistre wrote, “every nation gets the government it deserves”, which is a sobering thought. Perhaps, if the media does its job better, the country might eventually deserve better.