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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Press Responsibility... Oxymoron?

I received a call from a very annoyed acquaintance yesterday, and we had a long chat on the seeming absence of accountability and professionalism in the local mainstream press. They hit particularly hard on a story carried by one of the dailies where a member of the public's request for anonymity was very technically denied by the reporter covering the story. He said that he'd used the newspaper's comments form - again - to attempt to raise the issue of possibly endangering a potential witness in the crime that was being covered. But like his letters and other comments to the paper, largely constructive, his comment seemed to be ignored in favour of "uninformed and ignorant responses to the day's issues made by narrow-minded unthinkers."

My view of the particular media house already at a negative position given a previous "interaction" with their editorial staff, I still held some hope for them given their recent wave of new hires, and the now even-handed coverage of one particular reporter in the political space. But their editors still seem to permit release of inflammatory opinion masquerading as truth on an otherwise uninformed public. And, as in this case, operate irresponsibly in their crime coverage. Were the criminals in this case able to deduce the identity of the witness given the information provided by the story, certainly the newspaper and the reporter would have denied vehemently any culpability in the matter.

One would have hoped that a media group with their regional scope would focus more on public education, clear and even reporting, and a minimisation of sensationalism. But alas! Sensation is what sells newspapers, increases advertising revenue, and boosts the share price. And it can be surmised that their share price is way more important than their news coverage given its prominence on the front page of the group's web site.

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