Being a journalist, Hacker had no particular talent for reporting facts. (Yes Minister Diaries)
Rob Shipley takes "a light-hearted" look at the week's news in his column "A Backward Glance". Last Saturday's column in the Jersey Evening Post was anything but lighthearted, however, although the phrase "backward glance" certainly seemed appropriate.
He was commenting on Senator Jim Perchard, a Senator who has been caught both in the House, and outside the Town Hall, speaking his mind extremely forcefully.
Senator Jim Perchard, a forthright man who occasionally calls a spade a *** shovel, has had his wrists slapped for being rude to a blogger during a radio phone in. Well to be fair, we can't really have our politicians exchanging insults on the air wave, can we?
Having mentioned the Senator being rude to a blogger, he then goes on to take on the bloggers, using language that reeked of venom:
That said there's a bit of a pot-kettle nexus here. Who is going to take the bloggers - or at least the most intemperate of them -- to task for name-calling and far worse on their often contemptible contributions to the world of electronic tittle-tattle? They have the effrontery to describe their venomous activities as 'citizen journalism' without, apparently, any understanding that proper journalism demands balance, fairness, evidence, the scrupulous avoidance of wild accusation and honest respect for the laws of defamation?
This is a scatter-gun approach. No bloggers are named - no examples given - instead a pretty blanket condemnation of bloggers is given. There is a let out - "the most intemperate of them", but having given no examples, it is difficult to know exactly who his target is. If it is Stuart Syvret's blog, then he should have the decency to say so. If other bloggers cause him such apoplexy, such as the "Voice" group of blogs, then he should say so, and give some hard examples. Fairness and evidence are in short supply!
Regarding "balance", I'm certainly not convinced that the JEP's record is pristine. Regarding accuracy, I have two emails from States Ministers - one from Senator Le Marquand (with permission to publish) in which the JEP has given misleading reports, which the Ministers concerned have corrected the mistakes. Moreover, a number of blogs have reported such items as Minutes of meetings, or Affidavits, which are certainly evidential.
Bloggers are all too aware that they are most unlikely to be sued for libel because the costs of taking them to court - not to mention the pain and trouble of doing so - are prohibitive, so in their world recklessness rules.
While it may be true that bloggers may not be sued for libel, it does not follow that "in their world recklessness rules". Team Voice have been putting out documentary material, and conducting interviews with a surprisingly wide range of people - you will find Senator Freddie Cohen there talking on planning, as well as Bob Hill on suspensions, and Simon Crowcroft. I'd like to see Team Voice following in the footsteps of Alan Breckon, and putting the early morning cleanup on line, so that we can see what the town cleaners have to face every day.
With the recent elections, they are offering 5 minutes to ALL candidates to present their case online, which the JEP has yet to do - it reports on the Hustings, but that is reportage, edited, and not direct material. This election has seen no States website giving a platform for candidates, so this is a much needed service to the general public.
It is true that the Voice team have been at times intemperate, but they are feeling their way, becoming better at reporting and asking questions, and while at first they struggled to get questions onto phone-ins, as they have matured, this has (I suspect) been acknowledged by the local BBC, who do allow them as much input as any member of the public, because they are polite, ask pertinent questions to the issue under discussion, and don't try to dominate the proceedings or go off on a different agenda.
Rob Shipley ends his piece with one of the most facile comments I have ever seen:
It has been said before, but it bears saying again, that if we accept the concept of citizen journalists, citizen dentists and citizen accountants will soon be asking why they aren't allowed to practise.
I know a number of journalists in the UK who are personal friends, they are writers for small provincial papers, sometimes alongside other jobs. They studied at University subjects like history or economics. They applied for interviews, and had little formal training in the job, other than advice on house style, the occasional comment by editors, but basically they went out to events - a Parish procession with bands and floats, a Parish Council Meeting, a Criminal Court - and wrote up from notes what they did. They could write good English, and report back, and put an article within a specified number of words, and that was largely their qualification, along with Union Membership. That's not to decry what they do, that is a worthwhile occupation, but I think they would readily admit that it does not require the same skill as dentistry.
If anyone - like Rob Shipley - thinks that being a dentist is the same as being a journalist, then I think they have a serious misunderstanding of the degree of training, and the expertise in dentistry that is required. Quite honestly, anyone, with a degree of application, and an ability to write, could become a journalist (or an MP!) - just read some journalist's autobiographies! The same is not true of a dentist. This is a spurious comparison that certainly doesn't bear saying again - unless it reflects on just how stupid some journalists can sometimes be.
I suspect that the real cause of Mr. Shipley's annoyance is that a new kind of journalism is in the process of formation, and while rough around the edges - as print journalism once was when it began, don't forget that - it is a rival, an extra source of news. The BBC, as a publically funded public service organisation doesn't have the same concerns, and is therefore more amenable to engaging with bloggers.
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