Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Leveson guess work.

The Leveson report is due to be released at 13:30 on the 29th of December, already the interested parties are having their say. The various fractions of the press have been laying in for weeks, it started with claims that Celebrities had hijacked the inquiry away from other less well no victims of press intrusion and criminality. The Celebrities hijacked the process via media coverage.  In the end, as several people have pointed out what the inquiry was looking at where already criminal acts and so cannot really be made illegal again. The problem is that this kind of thing doesn't go on in isolation, people knew and said nothing and if they had said anything it would have been to the management not to the police. If the members of the press aren't prepared to investigate themselves are they fit to investigate anyone else? How dare they hold others to account while burying their colleagues dirt!  

Cheque Cheque and double Cheque.  

The press has also claimed that they often go to great lengths to validate a story, if that's the case every story that was published, based on this illegally gained information, must have been checked by editors and lawyers who would have known that illegal methods were used, which makes them conspirator after the fact.  
There is of course the legitimate public interest defence, which can be used, this is valuable to us all in a wide set of circumstances, but to test it the Police and CPS have to have first charged you, you then have to go through the trial process where your defence is tested and 12 people get to decide whether or not what you do was in the public interest and was needed. The members of the Press seem to think that this is beneath their dignity, that want a predefined list, they want an absolute guarantee they can't be found guilty. None of us is getting that but doing the right thing is not without risk but it seems journalists want it to be. You have to wonder how many of the UK's journalists would dare to say boo in countries where nosey journalists turn up dead on a regular basis.  
It says something about the attitude to arrest, charge and trial that they want to avoid it at all cost. They have spent so much time ignoring the concept of innocent until proven guilty, when applied to others, that they know they will be tarred with the brush that they created. For most people this would be a cause for introspection, not very likely though. In fact the current actions of journalists seem more akin to a child throwing its toys, from its pram, in a fit of pique.

Court for all 

There are civil remedies to libel by papers but to access them you have to be well off or have such a clear cut case that you can persuade a lawyer to do no fix no fee. Even when a result is achieved the damages are likely to be so small that the paper may still make a profit if the defaming article sold enough extra copies, which is unacceptable. The cost to a paper of libel should at the very very least wipe out any profit made from the story.  
The Press is composed of corporate entities, they do not have rights only people have rights, any rights that the Press seems to enjoy are actually privileges given to it by HMG, which is the same organisation which granted them the right to incorporate in the first place. The license, under which all corporations operate, is granted solely for Consequentialist reasons, there is no deontological right for any company to exist.

 Triumph of style over content.  

One thing has become clear to me whilst looking at this, journalists are obsessed with the “quality of the writing”, it seems at the expensive of everything else, their main reason for going into journalism doesn't seem to be for the public good but simply to get their pros printed and distributed to as many people as possible. That they have to check facts and contain content which gives more than a grammatically correct sentence, seems to be more of an inconvenience than the heart and soul of journalism, as it should be.

People obsessed with grammar and spelling have been brainwashed by their education, into believing that spelling, grammar etc. are the be all and end all of language. This is due to the fact that that is what teachers give marks for. Never in the history of mankind has an English teacher on reading a story that was grammatically perfect and with evidence of use of a thesaurus ever, pointed out that they had asked for an interesting story.  

It is not what you know but who you know.  

Even the most reviled papers have on occasions done good, for instance there was the risk taken by the Daily Mail and its campaign to bring the killers of Stephen Lawrence to justice. A good case of powerful public interest motives. Well perhaps. As Stephens dad says the paper ignored the issue until Paul Dare found out that he knew Stephen and his dad and had worked painting and decorating Dacre's home. This was very lucky for the inquiry but how many of us can be lucky enough to have a connection to someone in an editorial position at a national paper. Is it reasonable to rely on a chance meeting to reveal the “institutional racism” of a police force?
Some of the failings of the press cannot be fixed by legislation in all cases simply because that failings of the press are down to the lack of interest and therefore lack of financial payback for the corporations which run papers. Making money is the primary goal of all companies and if you going to get them to make less mistakes by forcing them to make more checks the only way to do it is by hitting them in the wallet, which is what the papers care about, publishing a libelous story has to be so expensive that the papers will make a far greater effort to detect them and avoid them. No voluntary scheme will do this, they will always set the penalty as one that can be afforded. What that means is that the punishment cannot be dished out or set anywhere other than by a government and court.

Some organisations will opt out of any voluntary organisation as several opt out of the PCC, how to deal with them? Only by allowing the government to make the regulations devised by a voluntary body mandatory and providing a mechanism for assessing alleged breached by these non compliant papers.

Are Journalists Professionals?

What is a professional journalist or more importantly what did they profess to do? Doctors traditional professed the hypocratic oath and it is this kind of oath that used to define all professions, it is a term that has become sadly misused now, to where professional means “wears a suit”, what it used to mean was that they put the oath before the interests of their employer and their own personal interest, I do not the journalists have ever done that.  
The GMC is used to regulate doctors and that is deemed independent of government why can't such a model be used in journalism? If the General Journalist Council regulated who could be a journalist would they have struck of Paul Mullen before the story broke, would other journalists have grassed him up for bringing the profession into disrepute.  

So what do I propose?  

The introduction of criminal corporate libel, which would have punitive levels of damages. 

That the editor should be criminally responsible if stories are run with illegally gathered information, because they either knew or were derelict in their supervision. 

That a body similar to the GMC is set up to regulate who can be a journalist and have their work appear corporate papers, whilst allowing anyone to publish themselves for money.

For something sensible about what Freedom of The press actually means and why it has nothing to do with papers please read David Allen Green in the New Statesmen me being able to say this here is an example of it, several journalist have cut my comments, in a similar vein, on their august journalist.

Keep in mind that for every Woodward and Bernstein there are 20 Kelvin MacKenzie and while we want to keep and encourage the former we need less of the latter because they just abuse a valuable freedom. #JFT96

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