Debates have raged in the media in the aftermath of recent events in News Ltd UK.
Curtailing the freedom of the press; the ethics of methods used to source stories; quality of media reporting; and the 70% media ownership in Australia by one player are among the front runners, with vigorous takes on pros and cons from different stakeholders.
On this weeks’ Q&A, among the various perspectives offered by panelists, there were two which are worth mentioning.
The first was the argument that investigating the media, while appearing warranted, might actually lead to curbing freedom of the press for the entire industry, curtailing possible illegitimate methods to gain materials for stories to bring down those in power.
The other argument was that media misdemeanours are the public’s fault, as they have an insatiable need to know what’s happening instantly and constantly.
Both arguments are overgeneralised, simplistic and ignore other significant factors which need to be explored in depth.
Does having freedom in the media mean that it can act unlawfully to fulfil a legitimate purpose?
Does freedom mean the media can abdicate responsibility given its position of power?
What is the core purpose of the press and, for that matter, journalism?
Is this purpose ultimately influenced by the bottom line: media organisations selling news?
Does media have a part to play in building “virtuous” societies?
The above considerations go beyond the concern of what measures can be implemented to clamp down on the media industry.
While focusing on the current situation, they more importantly seek the possibility of a sustainable foundation for a long-term relationship between the public and those who inform them – a relationship of trust, credibility and respect.
An argument that positions the public as consumers of media is short-sighted in saying that Australians are happy with any type of news, regardless of journalistic integrity.
Is Australia really a hedonistic society hungering for a news fix?
I would like to think that we are interested in being informed through media that practice rigour in sourcing and evaluating information.
But this prerequisite for critical thinking must not only be the criteria of ethically sustainable media organisations, it must also apply in the public’s constant evaluation of what they are told by the media.
Do we question why we are being told what we are told by the media?
Are we concerned with reason, intellectual honesty, a balanced argument and open-mindedness?
Media that values critical thinking, professional honesty and integrity, and an ethically sustainable relationship with all of its stakeholders plays a role that goes beyond just providing the news.
In pursuing goals which create meaningful sense-making for society, the media can be the voice of the people. It can lead society to pursue complex goals that are meaningful to the individual.
In the wake of a possible new reality, or to enhance what is current, let’s begin a much broader discussion including asking Australian media leaders about the authentic purpose of their organisation.
How do they perceive their role in Australian society and how do they uphold that vision?
What do we want to see in our media organisations, and how can we work together to build a relationship that mutually empowers and moves Australia forward as a nation?