Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Media needs to offer solutions, not hack phones
says ICF President, speaking in the Scottish Parliament

There is no place any more for bad journalism,’ following the News of the World phone hacking scandal, asserted Bernard Margueritte, President of the International Communications Forum, when he addressed the Festival of Politics held in the Scottish Parliament on 25 August

Bernard Margueritte‘News is not the media,’ said Margueritte, a former Le Monde correspondent for Eastern Europe, who is based in Warsaw. ‘There is no lack of information, but there is lack of meaning. Traditional media has to do better, putting the news into context. There is no place any more for bad journalism. Journalists have to go back to wisdom. Only the media can move us from understanding to mutual understanding.’

Introducing him, Magnus Linklater, editor of the Scottish edition of The Times, commented that the crisis in the media over phone hacking was a wake-up call. It showed how far down the road the profession had travelled, losing sight of ethical standards that they should have been aware of.

Linklater referred to his time working on The SundayTimes 20 years ago, when technologies were developing very fast. ‘If you are given the means to do something you will probably use it, but you need to be aware of the boundaries.’

In times of crisis the media is part of the society it is in, Margueritte said. He summarised important points in the current situation:

  • A concentration of media in a few groups;

  • The globalisation of news;

  • An emphasis on bad news, with a resultant lack of balance.

The role of the media is different from before, he said. The media can be part of the solution in the world and new online media can be a magnificent tool. The new media can promote democracy, but sometimes one does not know the reliability of sources.

He told how a Dutch group had circulated a story about an attack on an American town. The story was picked up and passed on widely. A couple of hours later it was shown to be entirely fictitious.

Magnus Linklater asked Margueritte: ‘Where does the next generation of journalists find their values?’ Margueritte replied that the International Communications Forum was running workshops for students.

Margueritte was speaking on the invitation of the Consulate-General of Poland in Scotland. Among the audience of over 60 were Anne McTaggart MSP, with three of her staff, and Archie Mackenzie, former British Ambassador to Tunisia.