29 March 2006 – MediaWise backs the ‘Journalism Matters’ campaign launched by the National Union of Journalists. At its Annual Delegate Meeting in Liverpool last weekend branch after branch told of job cuts and deteriorating working conditions that threaten the quality of local and national journalism.
The NUJ campaign is designed to engage the public in the debate about journalism standards, much like our own Journalism and Public Trust Project.
Like the NUJ we have argued that journalists have a vital role to play in keeping democracy open by informing the public with fair and accurate coverage.
For 13 years our slogan has been ‘Press freedom is a responsibility exercised by journalists on behalf of the public’. In our view that means the public should be able to trust journalists, rather than holding them in low esteem on a par with politicians and estate agents.
It has long been our view that a major step towards providing journalists with the protection they need from commercial and managerial pressures would be the inclusion of a ‘Conscience Clause’ in their contracts, allowing individuals to refuse assignments if they regard them as unethical, without fear of victimisation.
Outgoing NUJ president Tim Lezard made promotion of a Conscience Clause one of the key themes of his year at the helm of the NUJ. It will also feature in the ‘Journalism Matters’ campaign. New President Chris Morley and General Secretary Jeremy Dear will be taking the message around the country to encourage readers, viewers and listeners to support quality journalism.
During the year the NUJ Ethics Council will also be revising the union’s Code of Conduct – its first major overhaul for 30 years.
Like the current revision of the Editors’ Code of Practice policed by the Press Complaints Commission, and other moves to put ethics at the centre of public discourse, these are welcome developments which show that MediaWise is no longer ‘crying in the wilderness’.
Our Journalism and Public Trust Project includes developing an analysis of why a ‘crisis of trust’ has arisen in recent years around journalism in the UK. We have devised questionnaires to gather the views of both working journalists and members of the public. We believe the results will contribute to new approaches to the training of journalists, and a strengthening of trust between working journalists and the public they serve.
MediaWise Director Mike Jempson, a member of the NUJ Ethics Council, has been awarded a Gold Badge by the NUJ for his work on journalism issues over the last 35 years.
For more information about the MediaWise Journalism and Public Trust (JPT) Project see here.
To receive the MediaWise JPT questionnaire contact firstname.lastname@example.org indicating whether you are a journalist or a member of the public.
Information about the ‘Journalism Matters’ campaign can be obtained from email@example.com
(Bulletin No 120)