A Question of Ethics

Something that’s bound to come up in conversation among your friends or work colleagues this week is the Leveson Inquiry. As a journalist, it’s been a matter of great interest for me – investigating unethical media practice, which appears to have soared way beyond the (former) News of the World. So, I decided to put “ethics” under the spotlight.

 

In a strange way I kind of understand the interest in celeb life. Public figures seem to be personalities a lot of us look up to so when something “normal” happens in their life, it’s almost uplifting to think that we’re not alone to experience the same thing. But when there’s scandal involved…well, as I mentioned in my earlier rant; it seems to be human nature to love gossip. However, watching the Leveson Inquiry unfold this week, it was a horrible shock to see how the pursuit of gossip could have such detrimental impact on regular people. Namely, Elle Macpherson’s former adviser claims she was sacked because her boss thought she was leaking out to the press, when in fact it appeared Macpherson’s phone had been hacked into. So, not only did her adviser suffer unfair treatment for an act she didn’t commit but imagine being unemployed, the repercussions on her family, and her flawed job record after being fired. That would be enough to drive any sane person over the edge. Worse still, ex-footballer, Garry Flitcroft, believes journalists snooping into his private life led to his father committing suicide. As for the McCanns…the less I say the better because I find lengthy coverage of one family’s missing child intolerable when hundreds of British children from all backgrounds go missing yearly yet we hear nothing about them – anyway! I digress.

 

It makes you question how could some (and I must stress this because believe you me, not all journalists are the same!) reporters act so immoral and erode at people’s private lives. No matter whether they’re a celebrity or not, innocent people are always affected. But why the need to search for scandal or controversy? Sales. Sexed up stories sell. It’s as simple as that. The juiciest gossip or exclusive exposures are like feasts for gossip-hungry audiences. This would explain why tabloids sell much more than broadsheets. News is a business where profits are central. Integrity, sensitivity, ethics and facts seem to be secondary in some news corporations. I’m not justifying unethical journalism but trying to understand the root of the problem. Many readers are gossip hungry and journalists need to lure them in. But where do you draw the line?

 

News has become such a competitive market. There are hundreds of magazines, newspapers, radio stations and channels in this country alone. With globalisation, telecommunication and social media, news travels faster than ever before. To stand unique, there is always the push for exclusivity. That’s what draws audiences and makes profits, which in turn pays salaries, and so the vicious circle goes on. Thus, the line is very unclear. Despite media law and regulations in Britain, lack of independent media watchdogs has allowed certain news corporations to groom their journalists to practice unethical reporting.

 

From a young age I decided I wanted to become a journalist because I relished the idea of meeting new people, learning new things, informing the world on interesting facts and no single day being the same. I doubt there’s a single journalist who grew up thinking they want to hack into people’s phones or make assumptions on their lives to create sexy stories. But it seems that the system has groomed some journalists to practice in just that way. People need to realise the imperative role journalists play in our lives. Without news coverage, we wouldn’t be able to uncover scandals such as corruption in global corporations or MP’s expenses, or hear about landmark sociopolitical movements such as the Arab uprising. Ethical journalism is not only rewarding for the news corporation involved but the nation. It’s disappointing to see how the actions of some have influenced lack of public trust in journalism. I’ve worked in newsrooms where journalists have fit their stereotype of generalising communities and approaching stories with biased angles.  But, we’re not all the same. Once we start to generalise about one section of the community, we end up being no better than those few journalists who act immorally. I welcome the Leveson Inquiry and the president it will set in the media world. I just hope it doesn’t completely tarnish all those working in the business, without which we would be an ill-informed, narrow-minded and closed society.

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My Business in NOT Your Business

Human nature has many irritating flaws that some of us seem to evolve and develop. Namely, gossiping – we thrive off rumours and hearsay, even if it’s about people we don’t know. Another flaw that haunts some personalities is interference…which goes under the spotlight.

It’s all well and good to give your opinion on a matter or maybe advice if you think you know better. But actions can denote very different meanings by fractional behavioural change. A certain tone of voice could be perceived as sarcasm or aggression and not advice. It’s quite common in my social circle for elders to assume they know better, thus they supposedly have the right to interfere in a situation that doesn’t always call for their presence. Unknowingly or (usually!) knowingly, they could leave somebody feeling insignificant and belittled that they are being pressured to follow commands and not follow their heart on a matter that is purely their own business. I don’t mean to generalise that all elders interfere or that all interference is uncalled for. However, if you’re not asked, or it’s not your place to impose your thoughts then why do it? Do some people crave the need to feel superior or wise? That everything should be done to their knowledge and experience? Wouldn’t it be much more honourable to the “volunteer adviser” if they were asked for their thoughts? Surely being approached for your opinion on a matter is much more flattering and implies your views are respected. Yet snooping or poking around in business that doesn’t require you, or even worse, making decisions about somebody else’s matter before clearing it with them, is not only obnoxious but arrogant.

Everyone should know their place. There are certain things my friends or relatives do that I don’t always agree with. Unless it’s something dangerous or potentially harmful to another, in which case it would be wrong not to interfere – there is no need for me to impose my viewpoint when it’s not requested. Moreover, if I do go ahead and announce my opinion; then I should show the valour to hear others’ viewpoints of my opinion. If you’re not brave enough to hear counter-judgements of your own judgement, then you have no right to impose it in the first place.

This is another behaviour that seriously gets under my skin – opinionated people who cannot tolerate hearing others’ opinions of their thoughts. Why do these people haphazardly air their judgement and yet feel somehow disrespected if it’s been challenged? Interfering, opinionated people need to learn how to broaden their perspectives and understand that the world doesn’t revolve around their views. Everybody makes mistakes. No one can consistently be correct. It’s human nature. Others who may not seem as vocal could be much more experienced or knowledgeable on a matter. Silence is not a cue for someone else to interfere with their opinion. My business is not yours to assume control over.