Nick Jones

Media Ethics

While the warnings about the demise of viable journalism could hardly have been any clearer, when the vote was taken it was overwhelmingly in support of the freedom and opportunities offered by the internet. Unesco’s annual World Press Freedom Day debate (2.5.2008) produced a spirited exchange of views but ended with a 43-13 vote to reject a motion that “new media is killing journalism.”

The annual UNESCO World Press Freedom Day debate (2.5.2008) resulted in a resounding defeat of a motion declaring that "new media is killing journalism".  After a wide-ranging discussion at the Frontline Club in London, the vote was 43-13 to reject the notion that the internet was a threat to professional journalists. In his speech Nicholas Jones (who supported the motion) argued that the unregulated development of audio-visual reporting on newspaper websites could undermine the great British and European tradition of the balanced and impartial reporting of politics on radio and television. 

It was modestly put but heartfelt nonetheless: bloggers believe that crap journalists are finally feeling the heat.

When a trio of celebrated bloggers were brought together by the Adam Smith Institute (16.4.2008) they were united in their belief that the collective strength of the new media was helping to start to improve the accuracy and quality of the main stream providers of news and information.

Celebrity reporting has had a corrosive influence on British journalistic standards. Whether the stories are sycophantic or invented the effect has been the same: a showbiz style of story-telling has been replicated in sports reporting, politics and business. In a lecture at the University of East London (3.4.2008) Nicholas Jones pulled back the veil to expose the hidden influences that have besmirched celebrity reporting and damaged the reputation of British journalism.


In a speech to local authority leaders on the way reporters and councillors could co-operate with each other, Nicholas Jones recalled the day in the early 1960s when the father of the late film director Anthony Minghella agreed to help create a story line that captured the local headlines.  Eddie Minghella, then chairman of the Entertertainments Committee on Ryde Borough Council, was persuaded to suggest that his local authority should adopt as a summer advertising slogan Ticket to Ride, the latest hit by The Beatles.

Jones presented the awards at the annual lunch of the North East Charter on Elected Member Development at The Sage, Gateshead (25.3.2008).  He said councillors and staff had only themselves to blame if they failed to challenge press misreporting. He urged them to take advantage of new opportunities opened up by the internet which provided new ways to communicate through websites and the blogosphere. Jones said he had found a collective failure on the part of council members and staff to respond. 


In a lecture to students at the University of East London (13.3.2008) Nicholas Jones had to consider some difficult questions. Is Britain governed more effectively because of the power and patronage exercised by the news media? And, more to the point, does the British press, despite the trivialisation and sensationalism of much of its coverage, serve the democratic process and help deliver better government?

Nicholas Jones was asked by the Local Government Association to speak at a conference in London (25.2.2008) on strengthening local democracy and address the question: How councillors can get a better press and is this diferent from individual councillors getting a good press?

My advice to local councillors when considering how to promote your work and that of your authority has to be pretty blunt: set your political differences aside, at least some of the time; do act collectively; and do go on the offensive. For some years I have been a regular lecturer with the Young Local Authority programme which runs courses to encourage young thinkers and speakers in the local authorities. Your youngest staff are some of the most enthusiastic and most committed public servants in the country and what they tell me is that they only wish their councillors would do more to raise the profile of council work and to stand up to the negative reporting which appears in so many of their local newspapers.

Nicholas Jones spoke at a meeting organised by the National Union of Journalists in Swansea (20.2.2008) in support of the union's campaign for recognition at the South Wales Evening Post. Jones said that journalists of his generation should do all they could to help the journalists of tomorrow adjust to the commercial and ethical pressures imposed by the dramatic pace of change in the news media. He believed more should be done to advise young journalists on how to respond to the challenging dilemmas they face.

In a devastating critique of the ills of British journalism, Nick Davies exposes the alarming degree to which reporters are being exploited by the public relations industry, spin doctors, assorted publicists and the like but rather disappointingly he skates over the full impact of the failings which he identifies so clearly in Flat Earth News.

Declining editorial standards have made it all the easier for successive governments to collude with proprietors in manipulating the news media, never more so than during the build-up to the war against Iraq and the blatant misreporting of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

While Davies deserves to be congratulated for his diligence and courage in identifying the many falsehoods and distortions of the intelligence services -- and also the gullibility of the media in accepting them -- he makes only one passing reference to Rupert Murdoch’s role as cheerleader for George Bush and Tony Blair, preferring instead to focus an entire chapter on unseemly and incestuous infighting between Guardian journalists like himself and those on their pro-war sister paper, the Observer.

Debate at Literary and Historical Society, University College Dublin, January 30, 2008:

The news media should not be permitted to intrude upon the privacy of public figures. Nicholas Jones, a member of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, spoke in support of the motion:

I afraid there is no turning back: whether we like it not, media intrusion is all around us, in the old media as much as in the burgeoning new media. And it is not just journalists and a new generation of citizen journalists who are to blame. Inside of all of us there is what seems to have become an inner understanding of what interests and excites the media. Indeed I would go as far as to suggest that this is almost reflected in our genes, a component if you like of our 21st-century genome.