Can journalists be trusted?

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Jul 20 2012 15:44
Can journalists be trusted?

Discussion came up on the Freedom must be saved post and probably deserves it's own thread.

In my opinion, some journalists can be and others can't - it's also worth remembering that most journalists couldn't give a shit about the anarchist movement and don't report on anything connected with protests or social movements.

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Joined: 6-11-03
Jul 20 2012 16:17

Fair play, just C&Ping from the old one:

Ok but you are employed by the radical press and that does result in different pressures.

Nope, first five years of my career was at a regional paper with a right-wing bias (I ended up leaving before I was pushed, but over my union activities, not my treatment of content). And I work for Stalinists, hardly the anarchist movement's biggest fans (seriously, you should see some of the shit I've cleaned up accusing anarchists of this that and the other in the foreign pages particularly - and I've outright refused to work with some copy).

Every single journalist I know who makes money in political journalism where they are not working for the radical press is untrustworthy professionally.

I can think of half a dozen (journalists who write political stuff - people employed specfically as political journalists are something else) off the top of my head and probably come up with a dozen if I think about it, in London alone. Including at least one Guardian writer. And I don't hang out in journalistic circles much.

Bear in mind I understand the pressures pretty well and agree with most of the structural criticisms of journalism - but again, understanding the factors which produce trends of untrustworthyness and bias in the industry is not the same thing as I was complaining about, which is the tarring of all journalists as being untrustworthy and parasitic individuals.

The former is a logical response, the latter is a knee-jerk generalisation which can lead to people like me being bounced out of the movement and/or being encouraged to fall into line with the rest of the industry (after all, what's the point in making an effort to work with anarchists and potentially fucking your own life up to move against the flow if your allies are constantly telling you you're scum?).

Khawaga's picture
Joined: 7-08-06
Jul 20 2012 16:31

I am so sick of these types of threads whether they be about jailers of minds, social workers or journalists. It's as if people believe that the workers in these fields somehow can't analyze their own situation and come to the conclusion that shock! horror! the function of the profession might contradict the soul of anarchism. Rob is spot on in this.

Joined: 24-09-05
Jul 20 2012 17:20

Lynch 'em all.

Everyone knows that proper communists work in education or local government anyway.

Steven.'s picture
Joined: 27-06-06
Jul 20 2012 17:34

Yeah, agree with what people have said so far. You can trust some journalists, you can't others.

At work we have a couple of journalists at the local paper in particular who are very supportive of us and often help out with workers' campaigns. And Solfed have got some good media coverage as well recently.

By the way Rob you might want to edit some of your post as it would make you identifiable to your employers…

Joined: 6-01-10
Jul 20 2012 18:13

Lots of the criticisms of all journalists seem to be based on the idea that the media has to put forward a certain political agenda. I don't think that's true. Media organisations just wanna make money. If anarchism and anarchist-positive stories sold, the media would use them. The media would happily put forward positions which actually contradict the capitalist framework which the media exists in. It's almost a conspiratorial view of the media that thinks it has to promote a certain political stance, assuming a group of people consciously design the media to help propagate liberal/conservative, etc. ideas. It does only insofar as that political stance, and that kind of story, is popular and will make money. So making a blanket condemnation of all journalists is wrong, because they can work within the capitalist media to promote anti-capitalist ideas. It probably is true that most journalists are untrustworthy, but they can be trustworthy and allies.

donnacha.delong's picture
Joined: 7-08-09
Jul 21 2012 00:46

Each group should put together a list of trusted journos and photographers and give them exclusives, it will help keep them on side and will also piss off the untrustworthy ones. I'm happy to talk to any group that wants to about who the good journos to talk to are - I'm not going to name names in public (though I concur with working with Shiv - he's a good guy).

Joined: 6-01-07
Jul 21 2012 12:30

Seems to me that professional journalists whenever they are dealing with social, economic or political issues in their professional capacity, are obliged to operate in practice to promote one or other of the range of capitalist ideologies which range politically from leftist/social-democratic or liberal to neo-fascist, irrespective of any other viewes that they might personally have.

As a general rule in the context of strikes, demonstrations and political meetings it's best for anyone with pro-revolutionary politics to assume that they cannot be trusted and take at least a very cautious approach when dealing with them.

Of course those with a leftist, liberal or social-democratic mindset might reasonably think they can have a meaningful relationship with their favourite pet journalist.

None of this is to deny that on a personal level there are not many nice people amongst journalists as in every other walk of life.

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Joined: 6-11-03
Jul 21 2012 14:04

That's not far off what I would say Spikymike, though I think it probably is stricter than I've seen in my own experience. One of the things which you probably wouldn't get unless you've been in a newsroom is the how the difference manifests between what you as a writer or sub-editor think should be said and what the company thinks should be said.

The reality is that for rebellious types there is a tension, not just a robotic exchange of the writer being told how to write and doing so or being fired (as you'd see in say, a police force during a riot situation). A left-wing writer will operate under the same written and unwritten rules of commerce and ideology that dominate every aspect of the media as we know it, but may or may not buckle for the sake of progressing up the ladder - and if they do buckle, may or may not continue to attempt to get something through the net once in a while (Paul Mason being one very good example).

The usual way in which this tension manifests as resistance is through the "gatekeeping" function of the reporter or sub themselves. A reporter by their very nature knows more than the media organisation they are talking to about a given subject and while they may be under pressure to find stories to match the grand narrative of that organisation they are also able, particularly when working alone, to filter what information gets to the boss. This works better in some situations than others, and depends very much on the individual and their superiors.

You might have a real bastard who stands over you and tells you exactly what to write, or you could have an easily-manipulated and even vaguely sympathetic type who lets things through the net - hell I've actually been protected before now having used a temporary absence of my editor to run a front-page headline in my old job which was outright pro-strike. That's far more common in small regionals than in nationals mind and much less common than it used to be.

The rarer way is a reporter actually standing up to say something is wrong and refusing to be part of a hatchet job. That's a really difficult one and while you may not get fired for it, it's a ticket to obscurity which needs a lot of spine and tbh, as much backup as possible - that really is something which is entirely up to the rest of the journalistic community as to how often it happens.

And finally there's freelancing against the enemy (be that far right, state or corporate), which a certain tabloid hack who infrequently posts here these days has always been rather good at. That's the easiest way of all.

What I'm trying to illustrate is the way in which individual journalists actually can have some freedoms and potentials which place them outside the field of say, a cop or a screw. Understanding how these work, and who is trying to employ them, is a useful tool for anarchists - as long as the structural biases which act on journalists are understood and care is taken.

Joined: 23-07-12
Jul 24 2012 14:00

Mainstream ournalists cannot be trusted because they are puppets of those who run Govts