Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website
Foreign Press Association debateApril 28, 2009The rapid moves by UK newspapers to develop their online output – complete with video and audio as well text and pictures -- is injecting a  new dynamism into British journalism.  Having been a BBC correspondent for thirty years, I find it painful having to admit this, but I have to say that it is newspapers rather than the mainstream television and radio services, which are at the cutting edge in offering exclusive videos and audio tapes, stretching to the limits what journalism should be achieving and more often than not dictating the news agenda into the bargain.  In the short space of a year or two, newspaper websites have become a powerful new platform -- an online showcase for what is arguably some of the best and perhaps what others might consider is some of the worst of British journalism. 

 

April 19, 2009 

When a key Downing Street strategist was exposed as having used a No.10 computer to write a grotesque email smearing senior Conservatives it damaged not only the Prime Minister’s standing but also chipped away still further at the public’s faith in the way Britain is governed.  Although Damian McBride was stupid enough to get caught, he was simply exercising the unbridled freedom which he and his fellow special advisers have been allowed to establish for themselves at an unacceptable cost to the impartiality of the civil service.   Character assassination is now in the dna of Labour Party spin doctors but what made this lurid email so exceptional was that the allegations were entirely unsubstantiated and those targeted included the shadow chancellor’s wife.

Yet again the Labour Party is paying a heavy price for giving free rein to political attack dogs who have the status of civil servants but whose uncontrollable behaviour is undermining the democratic process.  Damian McBride’s crude attempt at smearing both the leader of the Opposition and the shadow chancellor is par for the course in the every day story of the apparatchiks on whom the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues have come to rely. But while Gordon Brown is rightly being blamed for having lost control of his politically-driven spin doctors, David Cameron should also be in the frame.  He too has some questions to answer.

 

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.  

The recent dramatic fall in newspaper circulation and advertising revenue – especially among regional daily and local weekly newspapers -- could have a profound effect on the public relations industry. Such has been the loss of jobs among reporters and sub-editors, that in one respect the pr industry might gain.  Journalists are already over dependent on the constant supply of news and information being issued by the public relations and public affairs industries and that over-reliance is bound to get worse, making it ever more likely that news releases will be published without the kind of journalistic challenges and checks that should have been made.