Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Which questions should we be asking?

There has been much talk of late about crises in the media. Crises of trust. Crises of competence. Crises of confidence. And, as may be expected, there has also been a great deal said about what the solutions are.

But, perhaps, those concerned about the state and future of journalism would do well to pause and consider the advice of management sage Peter Drucker: In the 20th century, great leaders gave great answers. In the 21st century, however, great leaders will ask great questions.

If that is so, what are the great questions that journalism leaders should be asking?

That is the question we will explore during the first Journalism Leaders Forum, 7-9pm British Summer Time (GMT+1) on Tuesday, 11 October 2005, in Greenbank Auditorium, Lancashire Business School, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK.

Keith Sutton (far left), president of the UK Society of Editors, Mary Glick, associate director of the American Press Institute, and Wilf Mbanga (above right), editor of The Zimbabwean, are amongst those on the panel. Fran├žois Nel, course leader for the Journalism Leaders Programme, will chair the session.

To attend this free programme on the day - as well as the reception from 6:30p - please RSVP to . If you can't be there in person, there are other ways to join the discussion. You can post your questions and comments on this site, or you can view the live Webcast at:

Better still, do both. And let's get the discussion going.


MitchinChicago said...

I think the Judith Miller fiasco offers a number of interesting questions for journalism leaders [for background click here, and here and here]. Perhaps this is primarily an American phenomenon, as the use of government leaks to control press coverage has exploded during the Bush Administration.

Some journalists are even agreeing to not contact those who may be on the opposite side of the issue for comment.

American blogger atrios has made a habit of pointing out some of the more ridiculous uses of anonymous government sources.

It appears that even when the motives of a government leaker can be easily ascertained, those motives are no longer a consideration as to whether the leaked information appears in the story. Is it time to call any use of government leaks unethical? Is it time to update our ethics practices regarding the issue?

Susan Greenberg said...

A 2001 symposium on the state of journalism education in the US focused on three main challenges:

1. The need to focus on whether journalists are being trained to serve to the public, rather than whether they are being trained to meet the demands of industry leaders; or at least, how they can work together

2. The need to address challenges posed by economic, technological and social change

3. The need to make journalism education and practice diverse and global.

Personally, I find the first question the most interesting, and perhaps the most challenging for "journalism leaders".

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Joe said...

Mr Mbanga's story is most interesting. Many questions immediately come to mind...

Would Mr Mbanga, if he had the chance to go back in time, help Mugabe into becoming the first Democratically elected President of Zimbabwe?

Does Mr Mbanga prefer an Independent Zimbabwe as was the idea back in 1980 with the results we have today or would he prefer to still be living under the British? Can he compare the two or have they become intrinsically the same?

Who sowed the seeds of corruption into the newly Independent Democratic Zimbabwe? Who is making the profits out of such a situation?

What kept him back from realising what the true situation in Zimbabwe was between 1980 right up to when he was still Editor in Chief in 1997?

Did he also participate in that 17 year span in putting boundaries around freedom of speech in Zimbabwe? When did Freedom of Speech become an issue for him?

I know that some of these questions might not be pertinent to the theme of 'what questions should we be asking?', but this story begs for more light to be shed on it so that through a better understanding we can maybe come to realise when is it that good ideals lead to the worst case scenarios!

Thank you

Joseph Meli

Franz Kruger said...

I wonder what the panel makes of the discussion around citizen journalism. I see that the BBC is now thinking of itself as a facilitator of news, passing on information generated by all kinds of other people. Does this mean that we resign ourselves to the irrelevance of professional standards? That we forget about making a particular contribution to checking the reliability of information? Franz Kruger, Wits University, South Africa

Vincent Maher said...

I would be interested to know whether challenges to traditional media classified sales, in form of things like Craigslist, are on the agenda for editors worrying about losing a chunk of their financial support from the business side of their operations. Obviously decreasing revenues would, on some levels, impact of the availability of resources for editorial staff.

AndrewBousfield said...

Susan Greenberg makes a deeply piercing observation, which gets right under the surface of American capitalist society. When Judith Miller was released from prison it was not to rapturous applause, but to a deafening silence of disapproval. For once the American public had got it right. Judith Miller decided to take an ethical stand. Unfortunately, she had been used by the White House administration (most probably Karl Rove). She was used as a pawn in their PR stunt, and decided to protect a source in order to protect what is widely perceived as a faltering administration.

She failed to appreciate that public life is full of veiled agendas, and hidden games. She allowed herself to be used. Rather, journalists should be subjecting the public sphere to the rigorous light of critical examination, and should be creating a vibrant public space. When journalists are just extensions of the administation's PR - what use journalism? Judith Miller chose the wrong ethical issue to take a stand on. Bravo to the American public.

AndrewBousfield said...

The critical voice of the media in America has been silenced. In the 21st century, when public government is reduced to mere accounting, and war-mongering to protect oil - it is the journalists and leaders who should be asking the great questions. It is the journalist who must invigorate the public sphere, and shine the light of truth. Increasingly, if these great questions are not asked, our public life is impoverished and imperilled. But can journalists find a voice?

AndrewBousfield said...

Also, I would really love to join the debate. I would spill blood for a login.

Joe said...

After hearing all the questions that the panel raised, I couldn't stop thinking that the questions asked are really coming from the institution/organisations/companies that sort of govern the journalism sphere! Where do these questions leave the journalist as an individual with his own beliefs, thoughts and ideas?! Has the Journalist become a representative of his/her respective institution/organisation/ company, rather than a representative of the society s/he lives in?!....Just wondering!