Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Jon Snow's gaza piece. There's objectivity, compassion and professionalism. Broadcasting needs a reboot

Jon Snow’s Gaza appeal risks reducing reporting to propaganda 

Journalists have cried ‘something must be done’ before, but they must avoid emoting

The headline appeared in the Guardian newspaper and has split the broadcasting fraternity. I replied on the Guardian site and have reposted here.


I guess Loyn's use of the word 'risks' allows from some wiggle room.

There is a classical illusionary view that the grandees of television news adhere to - an 'objective' approach. 

Thank goodness then for an alternative outlet e.g. the web.

Because while there are some pretty unprofessional things in this space, it does allow for reportage of a kind that is responsible e.g. Jon Snow's appeal, but does not have to wear the detached, impersonable clothes of reportage Wyndham Goldie, the Sykes Committee et al prescribed for news. 

Those rules for impartiality were a veil of protection for misleading the public, but their blanket adoption meant reporters would not be allowed to show any emotion.

BBC news presenters placed behind a screen (1954) were the most extreme of this emotion ban. 

Granted it's held pretty well and yes TV might be a different place, if in every piece a reporter spoke personally about what they saw, or said hello to dad and shed a tear describing their experience.

[see Al jazeera reporter, though I'm not sure about the hello bit.] But for goodness sake, give it a rest when you go online. 

Online isn't just an adjunct platform for broadcasters, though perhaps some wish it was. It's a place where reporters don't have to be bound by regulations. 

That nuance is easily separable. Similarly in blogs, and magazines, such as the New Statesman where Jeremy Bowen expressed his opinion about human shields in Gaza, it should be the prerogative of the journalist to say what they want whilst being professional. 

Insofar as they adhere to television's impartiality ruling on TV and from Snow's conduct grilling both sides in this affair, this appears fair, what's the fuss? 

The converse and bogeyman to all this is the US and the lack of a fairness decree, but the lack of impartiality does not preclude honesty and the journalism industry should be working to find new ways of codifying the profession in the 21st century.

Richard Sambrook talks about transparency. It's one of several routes.   There's a lot to be said about US scholar Michael Schudson's point that: journalism is a cultural construct bound by literary and social conventions.

Thus, you should be able to report emotion without risk being a propagandist.

Post script.. added

Roy Greenslade weighs in stating there is no such thing as objectivity in journalism

More notes: It must be remembered why impartial journalism was introduced into broadcasting. In Grace Wyndham Goldie's autobiography, she points to the limited number of news outputs at the time ( circa 1940s) that led to various committees setting up and maintaining impartiality.