News│The media in the media

20 February 2013 | ResolutionPossible

Recently the media has been in the media, and it got us thinking. A few of these stories that we would like to highlight have raised questions on what role the media is playing in society and how we view ‘news’.

Today’s front pages in the UK: The Pistorius trial and Kate Middleton’s baby bump. Is this ‘news’ worthy of the front page?

A few days ago the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) released a press statement on the urgency of freedom of press and the protection of journalists. South Sudan is to become a ‘pilot country’ for this type of programme which aims to “create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers”. The decision to pilot this programme in South Sudan came after a drastic drop in South Sudan’s recent ranking by Reporters Without Borders. In South Sudan, journalists are intimidated and even killed for writing critical pieces on the governments. In December 2012, Diing Chan Awuol was shot in Juba; he was a columnist renowned for being critical of the new South Sudan’s government. In January 2013, two reporters had been held for over two weeks for writing an article criticising President Salva Kiir Mayardit.

In the UK, too, protection has been a topic of discussion, only not the protection of journalists, but the protection of the general public.

A new Royal Charter is in the process of being laid out by the UK government in response to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. Its content is causing great upheaval. The UK Royal Charter is feared not to be independent from ‘the industry’, meaning people working in the media. It could mean that people with a vested interest in the media have a large say in the contents of the Royal Charter. If this is the case, how could public protection be ensured? The Royal Charter is meant to be there to protect the public, yet it is claimed that Lord Leveson’s recommendations following the inquiry are being ignored. Natalie Fenton from Hacked Off, the campaigning group set up by victims of press abuses, said in an interview with the BBC that there “should have been a public consultation process” in creating the Royal Charter, but instead the decision makers are Members of Parliament and people from the media industry.It is interesting to see that in the case of South Sudan the need for protection is aimed at journalists as their critical views of the government puts them in danger, whereas in the case of the Royal Charter in the UK it seems that the press are the perpetrators themselves and it is the citizens of the country that need more clearly defined protection.

It is also useful to consider what classifies as ‘news’. In the UK, many victims of press abuses in the UK were celebrities whose stories would sooner fall under ‘gossip’ rather than real ‘news’, whereas the journalists in South Sudan are literally risking their lives to bring out stories to make a difference in their country. What has happened to ‘news’ in a country such as the UK? The two stories that are hitting the headlines today, for example, are Oscar Pistorius’ trial or Kate Middleton’s baby bump (see below). Should these stories be front page news? Are these stories ‘news’ or just gossip? What does it tell us about the integrity of the UK’s media? Are there other stories where you are that you wish the media would focus on?

What  implications are there when people in the UK need a law to protect them from the press, whereas in South Sudan the press is seen as a symbol of truth, democracy and freedom? What role should the media play? Should it be to inform us of events happening in our own countries and the rest of the world? Is that what people want, or do we prefer to be entertained?

Please share with us what you think should have been on the front page today! E-mail us or comment below!

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