Before I mire myself in questions of when and whether to publish shocking images, I should—must—begin by writing about the fact of Aylan Kurdi’s drowning and the refugee crisis in general. If the central argument for publishing an image of a dead boy is that it ‘gets people discussing the issues’ then I think I have an obligation to do so, even if these thoughts have been stated earlier and more eloquently, elsewhere. Continue reading On the ethics of publishing the photo of Aylan Kurdi
My Nan had a prayer blue-tacked to her fridge. It is by It is by Reinhold Neibuhr:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
We would do well to remember this in the debate over press regulation.
I think a great deal of the motivation of politicians and campaigners to impose regulation on the press comes from a hatred of its hackery, rather than phone hacking. Shoddy reporting, blatant ideological propaganda, and quotes taken out of context in order to misrepresent and sensationalise. Continue reading Press Regulation: Grant us serenity
The Daily Mail reports that state schools are ‘failing to equip’ pupils for leading universities. While private schools funnel their pupils into ‘facilitating subjects’ like Mathematics and English Literature,
Figures show that state school pupils are significantly more likely than their privately-educated counterparts to take A-level subjects which are less valued by universities, such as media studies, performance studies and dance.
Commenting on the figures, Tory MP Chris Skidmore said:
Every pupil regardless of their background must be encouraged to study the subjects that matter
Two things. First, it is very worrying that a small group of research led univesities can dictate what subjects ‘matter’. (h/t education researcher Tom Richmond).
Second, Media Studies be on the list of ‘facilitating subjects’, and yet it is not.
This weekend, we discovered that The Sun has been manufacturing stories to suit its ideological ends, while other newspapers pretend to interview people they have not. The Leveson Inquiry just exposed some of the shocking complicity between news organisations, the politicians and the police, yet it continues unabated. The impact of celebrity culture, and the unhealthy body images marketed to us by the media, are perennial concerns. Arguments about free expression or political correctness are everywhere. Some crucial democratic issues (such as the blacklisting of unionised workers) are suspiciously under-reported. We complain constantly about the priorities the broadcasters give to different stories in their daily programmes: Snow disruption, or the conflict in Mali?
Moreover, eeverything we know (or think we know) about the things that matter, is funnelled to us through the media organisations. Even social networks are filtered for us, presenting us with the news and views that they think want to hear (the better to advertise to us). It is essential that citizens are media literate enough to understand how the information we receive reaches our eyeballs. It is crucial that we are skeptical and savvy enough to question the news organisations that claim to serve us.
I took exclusively ‘facilitating subjects’ at A level, and never had the opportunity to choose Media Studies. I wish I had. Let’s make sure the next generation does not suffer from the same educational deficit. Media literacy is as essential to our democracy as basic numeracy. It should be a compulsory subject in our schools.
The Daily Mail have published a rather odd hatchet job on Gavin Freeguard, Harriet Harman’s culture advisor. Gavin formerly worked for the Media Standards Trust, who are part of the Hacked Off Campaign. This fact, and some year-old tweets from Freeguard where he (shock! horror!) criticises David Cameron allow Mail journalist Richard Pendlebury to paint Gavin as some kind of Manchurian spad.
We desperately need to hear strong arguments against state-regulation and ‘licensing’ of the press. Left-wingers love to loathe the Daily Mail, but it is a hugely influential newspaper with one of the most visted websites on the Internet. There is no better platform for the arguments against statutory regulation to be presented.
And yet, on the eve of the Leveson Inquiry report publication, there is nothing in today’s editorial on #Leveson. Instead, the Daily Mail editors choose to run a piece which appears to be little more than an ad hominem attack on someone who previously worked for the Media Standards Trust. The pro-regulation camp will spin this a more evidence that the press is unserious about the regulation debate, and more interested in attacking individuals in order to sell newspapers – precisely the sin that (the critics say) makes the case for regulation!
As someone who is very wary about the prospect of state regulation of the press, I find it very is frustrating that the newspaper that could be the most powerful voice for press freedom is pursuing such a short term agenda, squandering its platform, and undermining the case for press freedom at such a crucial moment.