Nick Jones

General

What makes the scandal surrounding MPs’ expenses so extraordinary is that it resulted from politicians acting collectively to deceive the public. It was that collective betrayal by elected representatives which explains the depth of public anger. Nicholas Jones was one of the speakers at a debate at the House of Commons organised by the Commonwealth Journalists Association on the question: “What price good governance?” (26.10.2009)

Media scrutiny is the only effective means of forcing politicians to tell the truth. This was the argument put forward by journalists in a debate at the Oxford Union (22.10.2009). The motion was that this house trusts politicians more than journalists. Jones spoke for the journalists.

When searching for news and checking facts reporters often have to bend the rules and possibly break the law. But through its covert mass purchase of confidential mobile phone messages the News of the World has blackened the reputation of British journalism. In a true democracy journalists have to be free to investigate without the constant fear of falling foul of the state or of being hounded by the police and the courts.  Indeed principled journalists are ready to go to jail rather than reveal their sources.  But there is a huge difference between a justified breach of personal privacy in support of investigative journalism and a blatant fishing trip for private and confidential information.

Journalists in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan fear that if there is approval for another round of repressive media laws they could finish up close to the bottom of the international list for media freedom.

Whatever reservations there might be over the way the leaked information was obtained, the publication of hitherto secret details about the endemic abuse of MPs’ expenses was without doubt in the public interest.  

Whether it was cash for questions or dodgy donations for peerages, politicians have all too regularly shown an almost suicidal disregard for the proper management of their financial affairs.  What has proved so damaging about the latest scandal over claims for second homes, furnishings and food was the systematic way in which so many MPs were prepared to abuse the taxpayers’ generosity.

 

Journalism at Your Service? 

International Journalism Festival, Perugia, 1.4.2009 

 

Two questions should trouble the journalists of Britain, Europe and America as we work through what will be a terrible year for the world economy. Why, during the boom years, didn’t we do more to investigate what was really happening in the financial markets?  And are journalists in danger now of being deflected from the task of holding our governments, banks and institutions to account? Journalists can play their part in serving the public interest by investigating what went wrong, by scrutinising what the politicians are saying, and by helping to ensure that rigorous controls are introduced to prevent the damaging financial speculation of the past.  

Political journalism provides an ideal illustration of the contradictions and extremes of the British news media.  No other group of correspondents are so open to manipulation yet so determined to prove their independence by influencing and, whenever possible, by driving forward the news agenda.   Opinionated commentaries and a great tradition of campaigning journalism are a hallmark of the British press.  When reinforced by the constant push for exclusive agenda-setting setting stories, the impact can be pretty potent. 

Max Clifford has been trying his hardest to re-invent himself by becoming a father figure for the terminally-ill reality television star Jade Goody but while he might be hoping to salve his conscience he cannot undo all the damage he has inflicted over the years by helping to legitimise cheque-book journalism.

Not only has he stoked up the public's appetite for the seedier side of paid-for journalism - through what he calls "a game...my way of life" - but he has also encouraged and sustained the often pitiful ingenuity of those who seek to exploit it.

By advising his clients on how to make "a financial killing" from newspapers and television for stories such as kiss-and-tells, Clifford has inspired and empowered countless other individuals who have the imagination and cunning to take advantage of the un-controlled competitive forces which are currently at play within the news and entertainment media. 

 

 

Nicholas Jones spoke at a rally at the House of Commons (17.11.2008) in support of the drive by the Plain English Campaign to win wider support for the Small Print Bill. The aim is to help vulnerable people who miss out on compensation because of confusing small print. One of the aims is to ensure a minimum size for the print used in guarantees, contracts etc. Jones described the “love hate” relationship between journalists and those campaigning for plain speaking and writing.