Dr Jane Armstrong—written evidence (FOJ0111)


House of Lords Select Committee on Communications and Digital

Inquiry into the Future of Journalism


Submission by Dr Jane Armstrong PhD, MSc Nursing P.G. Diploma in Public Health, BA(Hons) Nursing Education, former Registered Nurse and Registered Nurse Teacher (member of the public)


I understand that the Communications and Digital Committee is investigating how the production and consumption of journalism is changing, how journalists can be supported to adapt to those changes and how the profession can become more trusted by and representative of the general population. This submission primarily focuses on this latter issue.


Questions the Committee is inviting evidence on include:


         How should journalism be defined and what is its value to society? What is the difference between citizen journalism and other forms of journalism?


         How have digital technologies changed the consumption of journalism?



         How have digital technologies changed the production of journalism? Do journalists have access to the training necessary to adapt to the digital world?


         What qualifications do professional journalists need? How could public policy better support non-degree routes into journalism?


         What are the main challenges for freelance journalists? How could public policy better support them?


         Why is the journalism profession not more representative of the population? How could this be addressed?


         Why has trust in journalism declined? How could it be improved? How can journalists better understand and convey the concerns and priorities of people who do not live in London or other metropolitan hubs?


         How can innovation and collaboration help news providers of all types to maintain sustainable business models and adapt what they produce to audience demand? What lessons can be learnt from successful innovations, including in other countries?


         Are there any other ways in which public policy could better support journalists and news organisations, now and in the future? Are there examples from other countries from which the Government could learn?


1.0              Overview


My submission provides an overview of what I have been able to determine from available online resources, as I am not from the field of journalism, but a member of the public who is also a retired researcher, academic, teacher and nurse.


From what I have read, I understand the journalist is apparently working to enable me, a member of the general public, the reader, the viewer, to better understand the world around me. I consider journalists should be an amalgam of a Judge (in a legal sense) and a Detective, with current and historical knowledge, plus other specialist knowledge depending on their role. What is written or broadcast should all be about the evidence and the public interest.


My principal focus for this submission for this Inquiry about the Future of Journalism is the MOST fundamental issue, trust, and how the professional journalist operates within this key societal area. I would argue if there is no trust in the operationalisation and output of journalists, then their role is effectively obsolete. I primarily draw on observations from the current management of the COVID 19 pandemic, and have made some recommendations informed from my reading, but also determined by my personal views of journalists I see and read output from, and MY sources are cited.


2.0              What is journalism and how should it and how does it function in society?


It is stated that “the functions of Journalism are to Inform, Educate, Guide and Entertain” ‘The press performs a very important role as means of mass communication in the modern world. The press tries to inform its reader objectively about what is happening in their community,[1] country and the world at large. To bring certain developments into focus, editorial comments on the news are also given. Newspapers also play a very important role in eliminating undesirable conditions prevailing in society.[2] Sometimes, newspapers carry on campaigns for some highly desirable civic projects and serve society in this way’.[3]


I read that underpinning the activities of the journalist, numerous codes of ethics have been instituted and duties and responsibilities listed. By way of example, the Ethical Journalism Network cites Five Core Principles of Journalism:


  1. Truth and Accuracy


              Journalists cannot always guarantee truth, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. We should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts we have and ensure that they have been checked. When we cannot corroborate information we should say so.


  1. Independence


              Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors – or the audience – any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.



  1. Fairness and Impartiality


              Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context. Objectivity is not always possible, and may not always be desirable (in the face for example of brutality or inhumanity), but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.


  1. Humanity


              Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.


  1. Accountability


              A sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism[4] is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors we must correct them and our expressions of regret must be sincere not cynical. We listen to the concerns of our audience. We may not change what readers write or say but we will always provide remedies when we are unfair.[5]


Supporting this, in 1971, there was a Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Journalists agreed at a meeting of representatives of the Journalists' Unions of the six countries of the European Community in Munich, Germany, on November 23-24,1971).[6]


The essential obligations of a journalist engaged in gathering, editing and commenting news are:


1.        To respect truth whatever be the consequence to himself, because of the right of the public to know the truth;


2.        To defend freedom of information, comment and criticism;


3.        To report only on facts of which he knows the origin; not to suppress essential information nor alter texts and documents;


4.        Not to use unfair methods to obtain news, photographs or documents;


5.        To restrict himself to the respect of privacy;


6.        To rectify any published information which is found to be inaccurate;


7.        To observe professional secrecy and not to divulge the source of information obtained in confidence;


8.        To regard as grave professional offences the following: plagiarism, calumny, slander, libel and unfounded accusations, the acceptance of bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression of news;


9.        Never to confuse the profession of a journalist with that of advertisements salesman or a propagandist and to refuse any direct or indirect orders from advertisers;


10.   To resist every pressure and to accept editorial orders only from the responsible persons of the editorial staff.


“Every journalist worthy of that name deems it his duty faithfully to observe the principles stated above.  Within the general law of each country, the journalist recognises, in professional matters, the jurisdiction of his colleagues only; he excludes every kind of interference by governments or others”.[7]


Furthermore, the BBC, as the major UK public broadcaster (as I would hope other broadcasters do), has extensive editorial standards[8] and a mission statement published in its Royal Charter, which states that the BBC’s Mission, “is to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain. It also establishes our independence from government, guarantees our editorial and artistic freedom and safeguards the licence fee, the unique funding arrangement which enables the BBC to pursue a distinctive mission.[9]


More broadly, the National Union of Journalists has an established code of practice since 1936.[10]


3.0              Diminishing trust in journalists


However, the majority of output from journalists of the BBC or other press and broadcast media does not reflect the noble sentiments stated above.


The comments below reveal very disparaging views of journalists, in relation to the illegal taping of individuals that occurred by the News of the World and resulted in the Leveson Inquiry and with it recommendations for change.


“The trial also shone a light on the appalling, systemic newsroom culture of bullying, lies, intimidation and intrusion that has devastated the lives of many people. From royalty and Cabinet ministers to victims of crime and bereaved families, nobody was safe.”[11]


As regards the BREXIT campaign, the critique (below) of the role of journalists was even more damning.


“The subsequent judicial investigation into the culture, practice, and ethics of the press, led by Lord Justice Leveson, exposed the tasteless practices on which some British tabloids had come to rely: the invasions into personal privacy, the gross intrusions into private grief. At the time, it seemed like a new low for the industry. If the Leveson inquiry revealed the tawdry side of the media business in the U.K., however, the Brexit campaign has featured a different kind of journalistic abuse: contempt for basic norms of truth and accuracy. It was a ferocious propaganda campaign in which facts and sober analysis were sacrificed to the ideologically driven objectives of editors and their proprietors. The interests of readers, much less the interests of British democracy, were barely considered”.[12]


I have found over recent times that my sense of respect and trust in the individuals who call themselves professional journalists is constantly diminishing, especially for those who work for well established media organisations like the BBC, who should be held to higher levels of conduct and practice and as such should be held to account for the fallout of their reporting. Surely, the role of journalists is not to scare and sensationalise, creating fear, anxiety and panic, which is an increasing feature of their output I believe, a prime example being their coverage of the terrible global pandemic of COVID-19. I am not alone, with the most recent Ipsos MRBI index (below) showing a further decrease in the degree of trust shown in journalists, with social influencers at the bottom!










































Source: https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2020-06/veracity_index_2020.pdf


3.1              The critical need for clear communication and supporting a global information and education effort: Media coverage of COVID-19


Like the majority I would expect, I wanted to know what was happening as the events surrounding COVID -19 unfolded, and I was totally absorbed by coverage of events and was shocked by the implications. However, after a while the impact of the reporting of journalists became very stressful.


Firstly, their coverage was very sensationalist, and in the end so frightening, I stopped watching the news. This has since become recognised world-wide and labelled “headline stress disorder,[13] and endorsed nationally.[14]


However, in this country, I would argue journalists took things to a whole other different level, (and particularly key amongst them from the off was Laura Kuenssberg, the Political Editor of BBC News, even prompting a Facebook Group, Get Laura Kuenssberg off the BBC).[15]


Instead of enabling clarity of messages, informing the public, ensuring there was perspective and not panic, what do the journalists do? They start the blame game. “Messages aren’t clear’, ‘the government does a U-turn’ (26/8/20- masks in secondary schools)!!!! “Why didn’t somebody do this”, “weren’t they negligent not doing that”, and “shouldn’t they apologise for” whatever it was that THEY, the journalists, considered should be apologised for. Where was the intelligent debate, setting out what was happening?


How did the print and broadcast media help the government deliver clear messages, support the public to understand how to keep themselves and others safe at this most surreal, frightening and challenging time, not only in the UK, but across the world?


No, there was ABSOLUTELY no sense of perspective, no real sense of the greater reality of what the WORLD was facing. There was NO map for managing THIS viral infection.


There is a time for challenge and critique, yes, but surely the professional journalist and reputable news organisations, print or broadcast should know what their role is in such circumstances, and when is the right time for critique and challenge, and the manner in which it should be undertaken??


How is it helpful to have every manoeuvre of the government criticised? I firmly believe that, with the journalists/media setting the hypercritical and undermining tone during coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, they collectively contributed to a reduction and possible destruction in the trust and hope the public needed at such an incredible and very unsettling time, and in part, most definitely contributed to the mental ill health in the nation.


The daily COVID-19 briefings ministers/others did were about all I watched in the end. However, yet again, each time, journalists were appalling, and many, very aggressive. Some days, they only had one topic area, something that had caught the news headlines (whose headline, and why was THAT the most important thing!), and then they kept on, and on, and on............, each successive questioner about the same thing, even following an answer, NO,THEY WANTED THEIR ANSWER TO THE SAME QUESTION!. And this was after they had had the privilege of THEIR OWN press briefing prior to this daily COVID-19 update. How does this serve the purpose of journalism? Especially as the tone of the majority of journalists was commonly rude, SO DISRESPECTFUL!.


How the presenters at the 4pm/3pm COVID - 19 briefings all kept their temper I dont know. Their patience was extraordinary, and knowing that the press was almost universally hostile and adversarial was an additional stress they didn’t need. It must have been THE most incredibly stressful time for all personnel trying to keep the country safe, sleepless nights, communicating internationally to seek optimal management, but these presenters still had manners and responded calmly.


So how does one evaluate the role and value of journalists during the genesis and successive events as COVID-19 evolved? What did they do during this PANDEMIC? Did they help the public understand what they had to do to keep safe? NO! They were, in the main, rude and offensive, and in reality functioning in a manner that breached all the codes of ethics and against all duties expected of them. So, yet again, I had to stop watching television because this time, I was FURIOUS. It appears all that journalists want at whatever time, is drama, scandal, how to make so and so look stupid. For the general public, this may be their only interaction with journalists. They will probably NOT read the high brow intellectual journals, TV programmes with their well written critiques about specific issues, which will probably be in language that is inaccessible!


So I am left asking, do we need journalists? At a time when journalists could have played a critical, very prominent, positive role in supporting the nation cope with this unprecedented time, using their expertise, establishing and communicating messages, seeking to explore and clarify, to ensure clear messages. How did/do they act? Their ‘display’ leaves the public sceptical, ‘turned off’, and trust in virtually all their messages, lost. However, the article here says that the situation is not so black and white. However, if journalists demonstrated professional standards of conduct in general and ethically, the situation cannot be dismissed because ‘they are just the messenger[16] with
the London School of Economics arguing that trust is a social construct.[17]


But I refer back to an earlier comment, do the general public read such material, or do they go with their ‘gut’?


We are also now seeing demonstrations in several countries including our own (30/08/20) objecting to community orientated measures aimed at stopping the spread of this terrible virus! Has media coverage of this pandemic caused so much uncertainty that it is undermining basic pillars of a society and trust in governments to keep citizens safe?

I was a professional nurse, a very privileged position, which in 2020 has the trust of 97% of the population[18]. We knew we had to perform at our optimum at all times, because we were bound by professional and ethical standards of practice. What has happened to all those high ideals journalists are taught about and expected to follow?



3.2              Effectively news censorship: an almost total UK centric/London, Westminster Bubble media world


Generally, I would argue, there is also almost a total UK centric perspective in the news seen and read in this country, which could even be called censorship. Free to air Freesat/Freeview have allowed us to see other broadcasters from around the world, and to see exceptional examples of great journalism. The general public in the UK need to understand world events and their historical beginnings and evolution and facts presented in an unbiased way, to enable them to situate their lives in the world, see how others have to live, and begin to appreciate the standard of life that the majority enjoy. Not all I appreciate.


This became in real focus for me because, as a direct result of my fury with the British media, I primarily watch news channels other than BBC/ITV/SKY/others which it appeared were UK centric, and focused on the blame game, and government inadequacy.


As a result, I was informed about a wider world that not only put COVID 19 in perspective, but also made me appreciate how lucky I am living in the UK. I heard events/injustices from wherever, reported in a calm, well researched way. As a consequence, the media output available to the UK public is commonly biased, ill-informed/fake and with a focus on social media which has led directly to mental ill health and death of those whose lives are ‘revealed’ to the world.


Fundamentally, I consider journalists have ‘lost their way’, they no longer know how to report to the public. Just because they think something is important, which it probably is not, it has to be revealed to the public, even if the fallout is seriously detrimental, whether its Northern Rock Bank, or why the PPE did not come from Turkey.... It didnt come because the Turkish President stopped it.......not because of ineptitude of the British government. Journalists dont know what their public, professional duty IS anymore. They do not talk like us, or understand our lives, as they live in their ‘Westminster Bubble’.


Sadly, the same is said to be true in the USA. Why people dont trust us is because we dont look like them,” said Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for The New York Times Sunday magazine. Why is the media so surprised by a rise of Trump? We have not covered the working class. We dont understand them. Were going to solve it by hiring more people who look like them on the ground.”[19]


4.0              Fake news


Another major problem is fake news that is being perpetuated by journalists, in breach of their core principles of practice. This is brought into stark reality because we now need fact checking organisations.[20] Full Fact.org has a very recent example.[21]

Whatever the excuse is, how can the public trust journalists who allow themselves, or in fact consciously spread fake news, for whatever personal or organisational reason. When we should have journalists we can trust, we cant, and to address the situation, these fact-checking organisations do the work that the journalist should have done in the first place. This again is a breach of expected practice, with the first principle of journalism:


1. Truth and Accuracy


Journalists cannot always guarantee truth, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. We should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts we have and ensure that they have been checked. When we cannot corroborate information we should say so.[22]


Fundamentally, journalists through their actions and inactions, have created a climate of distrust in their profession and their output.


5.0              Recommendations


5.1              An end to inquiries about the future of journalism as now action needed urgently


There comes a point when a halt has to be drawn to what seems now, from exploring this issue, like an ongoing and ongoing and ongoing debate about the future of journalism going back many years. From a brief review of available material:


E. AU (2020), What Investigative Journalism Will Look Like in 2020: https://gijn.org/2020/01/15/what-investigative-journalism-will-look-like-in-2020/


THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM (2019), Innovations, Transitions and Transformations,

Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Culture Cardiff (Wales), 12 and 13 September 2019https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/1700383/FoJ_2019_Book_of_Abstracts.pdf


J. Lepore (2019) Does Journalism Have a Future?: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/01/28/does-journalism-have-a-future








THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM (2017) A Report on the Aspen Institute Dialogue on the Future of Journalism:



Ericsson (2017), The future of journalism in a networked society, exploring potential new business models and smarter journalism for the digital era: https://www.ericsson.com/4a5427/assets/local/reports-papers/networked-society-insights/doc/the-future-of-journalism-in-a-networked-society_screen.pdf


Dianne Lynch for Knight Foundation, Above and Beyond, Looking at the future of journalism education for 2025:

https://kf-site-production.s3.amazonaws.com/publications/pdfs/ 000/000/177/original/KF-Above-and-Beyond-Report.pdf


R. Franklin (2017):



Debating the future of Journalism School (2013):





Part 1 of 4



Part 2 of 4  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/270941/0780_ii.pdf


Part 3 of 4  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/270942/0780_iii.pdf


Part 4 of 4

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/270943/0780_iv.pdf. (pages 1803 - 1817 contain the recommendations for action for the future).


And ...... https://www.discoverleveson.com. Search the UK's most important information resource on journalism and society


G. Brock The Leveson Inquiry: Theres a bargain to be struck over media freedom and regulation https://www.fljs.org/sites/www.fljs.org/files/publications/Brock_0.pdf


J Stray (2012) Journalism is more than one thing http://jonathanstray.com/journalism-is-more-than-one-thing\


BBC (2009) The Future of Journalism Papers from a conference organised by the BBC College of Journalism. https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/future_of_journalism.pdf


And on and on...................


I would hope that this House of Lords Select Committee, the Communication and Digital Committee in establishing THIS inquiry in 2020, will produce the definitive and last such inquiry, and finally, reform and subsequently change begins to happen before it is too late.


It also appears that even the recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry are still not implemented e.g. https://www.lawteacher.net/example-essays/practical-implementation-of-the-leveson-inquiry.php, with the government consulting on the recommendations (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/ system/uploads/attachment_data/file/564508/Consultation_on_the_Leveson_Inquiry_and_its_implementation.pdf)


There is ongoing debate about the implementation of the recommendations https://www.democraticaudit.com/2014/01/25/its-2014-and-were-still-implementing-leveson-inquiry-recommendations/ and an unsuccessful petition to get the recommendations implemented in full (https://petition.parliament.uk/archived/petitions/42523).


However, such delays and delays cause a rise in distrust amongst the public in the media’s capacity to get their own house in order, and the consequences are, an increasing lack of engagement, not buying papers anymore, and a rise in the voices of other ‘journalists/commentators/social bloggers who DO NOT have the professional standards that should underpin the practice of a journalist. More importantly, it undermines the legal process and ‘laughs in the face’ of all those adversely affected at the ‘hands’ of the media. Where is the accountability?


5.2              What is the role of the professional journalist?


The definitive output from this committee inquiry has to include defining the role of the professional journalist. What education is the minimum to be able to register as a professional journalist? What professional organisation they must be a member of? What professional standards do they have to adhere to, and what consequences are there for breaching their professional code of conduct?


Academics, teachers and mentors of journalists have to be very clear in their teaching about the professional roles and responsibilities of the journalist. Students must learn from those adversely affected at the hands of the media, to enable them to debate the issues and comprehend the complexities. How many more fatalities have to be at the door of the media and their tactics? Where a professional journalist opens the door with no sanctions or consequences, other and even more unscrupulous people will follow!


Much more qualitative research has to take place exploring why there is distrust of journalists and what can be done to address the issues that are identified. Asking the public, using quantitative samples of 200 people is highly inappropriate at this critical time for the future of journalism. The publics opinion, amongst the views of other relevant parties is critical in trying to move forward. Unfortunately, just asking academics is also challenging and inappropriate as they have another skewed opinion believing in the pure, when the real world of journalism is so different, messy and complex.


There are enough codes of conduct available that can reviewed to inform the production of a NEW code of conduct and set of professional standards fit for the 21st century and the digital age. Reputable media organisations should only employ professional journalists. It is only when all this is all in place and proven to be effective, that will we see trust in journalists begin to rise.


As I said previously, I would have expected that as ‘professional’ journalists, they would perform at an elevated level of expertise, credibility and gravitas, to scrutinise people/events and report, inform, debate the issues accordingly to execute their public duty.


Thus all professional journalists should be constantly checking themselves (reflecting, and critiquing, yes...but) about what they say and write because of the critical position they hold. However, it seems presently they appear unable to see how appallingly they behave. They cannot act with impunity nor immunity, as they live in a social and cultural world full of interconnected individuals and organisations, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. If they DO NOT grasp the potential impacts, positive and negative that they as professional journalists can ‘inflict’, then they must NOT hold such positions.


5.3              Managing their media output


All journalists must cite their source for what they write or present, and declare political affiliation. This must be mandatory. They should always also state the type of piece they are writing or presenting, whether it is independently verified news item, investigative piece, informed opinion, confidential source or just hearsay. If what the journalist will write/say is hearsay, then they need to reconsider using the information in the first place or seek additional corroboration for what they want to say/write. Academics have to cite their sources, so why should journalists be held to a lesser level of accountability for what they write/say?


If professional journalists want to be trusted again, they have to be transparent about their sources, of course respecting confidentiality of an anonymous source. However, ‘allowing’ the professional journalists to make claims using such anonymous sources, will always diminish the power of the information. By stating the source and nature of the information, the reader and or viewer can judge for themselves the merits of what the journalist is saying.


5.3.1.              The complexity and challenges of social media


              No professional journalist in employment should have personal social media accounts, whether Twitter, Instagram or any others.. All professional, employed journalists should work through their employing organisation and their organisation’s social media account for whatever division of news. This puts a ‘layer’ between the journalists personally, and their employer and thus separation of personal and professional.


              As it stands, it appears, all journalists have personal accounts that they spend considerable time ‘checking’, responding, reacting to, with a knee jerk response, then making comment on what is happening, without the time to check and scrutinise. Thus, there is little, if no chance to verify what is being said, and potentially responding to fake news, saying something irresponsible, without checking and without having their code of conduct in their head at ALL TIMES. Their verification is commonly their peers, who are in the same boat, exacerbating the situation. Nielson et al (2016) writing within the auspices of the Council of Europe wrote about these challenges and examined opportunities that are also offered (https://rm.coe.int/16806c0385).


              Professional journalists have allowed themselves to join the rough and tumble of cheap and fake news. To ‘save’ the profession, they have to be 150% better than any other news ‘hack’. The BBC may have a 204 page document, their Charter setting out the rules, however, on live TV, the journalist is on their own, there is no time delay to enable checking what they do and say and what happens is broadcast live!!!


              Consequently and additionally, there should be no live unscripted broadcasts until journalists can be trusted to be professionally responsible and all questions to be put at news conferences, Q&A sessions should be agreed with supervisors beforehand!!


              There HAS to be time to check, to make sure that anything said meets the professional codes and principles and standards of conduct. That is what separates professional journalists from anyone else. It is no good breaking a news story if the ‘story’ is just that, a STORY, fake. Anyway, what makes something newsworthy, which is another major debate which has huge social, ethical, cultural financial implications, and perhaps only relevant to their peers in the Westminster Bubble. There may be an issue of interest that the journalist feels should be ‘broadcast’ but are they right? Is it in the public interest to break, release that information? The layer of separation enables those debates to be had before publication and thus stops ‘off the cuff’ news being broken, tittle tattle being spread and fake news generated. This means that no retractions for ‘broadcasting/writing misleading information are required, when in reality the damage has already been done. Only then it is possible for public trust to rise.


              This is not about control, this is about accountability and adhering to principles that separate the professional journalist from all others. Most importantly, this provides safety for all parties involved in the exchange, because an exchange of information is then possible. It means the employing organisation can monitor what is being said, can look for trends, can protect the journalist, can make sure there is accountability for whatever is said by the organisation and that the principles and codes that govern journalism are followed at all times.





5.3.2              The right of reply


              Furthermore, journalists usually have social media accounts that cannot be replied to, so the journalist can say anything, personal, or in general that someone/that specific person wants to reply to, but CANNOT, adding to frustration and distrust of the media in general and of the particular journalist specifically.


              This is the consequence perhaps of abusive comments that journalists may receive. I am aware of trolls, whatever they are, but for the safety of both journalist and employer, there HAS TO BE A LAYER between the professional journalist and the public and this should be their employer. Even if self-employed, there should be always be separate official social media accounts.


              Thus, to ensure a right of reply, all professional journalists must be contactable at their employers email address for them, with copies sent to their employer’s media manager automatically. This ensures a right of reply, scrutiny of what is being sent to the journalist and a mechanism to deal with the email received. Emails allow time for something to be considered, and researched, verified and responded to appropriately, protecting all parties involved.


5.4.              The behaviour/attitude of so-called professional journalists


As referenced above, without recourse to reprimand/punish a professional journalist for breaches in expected behaviour/conduct/failure to act/intentionally harm, public trust is eroded and eventually lost altogether. Substantive sanctions have to be in place for the professional journalist who breaches professional standards and their code of conduct. This also means that job descriptions and employment contracts for professional journalists have to spell out what is expected of them at all times, and the consequences when these clauses are breached. Press Complaints and professional bodies/register for journalists have to have real teeth or there WILL BE NO FAITH RESTORED in professional journalists.


Affected individuals and organisations have be be able to seek real redress with teeth/sanction, which includes reparations in all cases proven, otherwise there will be no trust or faith in seeking redress. As previously said, there is no impunity for professional journalists, nor immunity, just because they can, they should NOT.


The vast majority of individuals in employment have to abide by such determinants and professional journalists are NO different. Journalists in this country also have to be mindful of the privileged and ‘cosy’ life they have in undertaking their work. Being a journalist in many countries can result in arrest, jail, even loss of life, e.g. https://www.hirondelle.org/en/blog/547-there-are-so-many-difficulties-about-being-a-journalist-here. http://www.ilam-center.org/en/files/userfiles/The%20Challenges% 20to%20Journalistic%20Professionalism.pdf


https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-3-biggest-challenges-journalists-face-in-the-digital_b_5923adb8e4b0e8f558bb297e?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvLnVrLw&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAGQgAkMpInNqBqnkPinWQd8XGETYB53ltDgaoy8XpNT51B2keb-luFUlP6GweAN7vH4pPVHvTmO3lD-OIHuMUEUFoh gPp5ldWGFkWV3gpb3XxO274ciNuR9Dtqo_G7jT0582b7zkRIXuzHPHUUIGvvV96cnRkLCwB6BSCR3IUpqk


5.4.1.              Special rules apply during e.g. major disasters - as for elections


              Relentless questioning and critique of the government during a global disaster/pandemic is totally and irrefutably irresponsible, unprofessional and to a degree negligent. The role of the journalist is to stick to the facts, enable the government/relevant body/bodies to clarify important messages, not slate them for poor communication, when often the journalist makes themselves the mouthpiece for the information being communicated, from one or other of their sources!


              Thus, during a pandemic or similarly media sensitive event, as for an election (https://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv-radio-and-on-demand/broadcast-codes/broadcast-code/section-six-elections-referendums) there have to be special rules/principles/codes of conduct for the media drawn up/applied from existing guidance about how the media must act. What goes, what doesnt go.


5.5.              How do professional journalists want their professional world to function and be ‘policed’?


Professional journalists have a very direct role in determining why they are not trusted by the general public? Self examination by journalists should be a formal part of this inquiry into the Future of Journalism. Professional journalists, once defined, need to incorporate active reflection in their daily work. As per an accepted and usual part of any professionals role, professional journalists have to interrogate themselves and their peers as to how they consider they should conduct themselves, and be mindful of the consequences when their behaviour is deemed to breach the professional standards and the code of conduct agreed.


Critique and challenge is an accepted part of the role of the professional journalist. However, with that privilege comes the need for respect for all people and organisations dealt with and being professional and respectful at all times. Challenge and critique is absolutely required, but, at the right time for the People and democracy not just because a headline is wanted. Otherwise it breeds and feeds distrust, disrespect and as a professional journalist and role model, opens the door for others to similarly behave irresponsibly and disrespectfully.


5.6              Breaking the Westminster Bubble/London centric media world


Is is essential that all those writing and broadcasting pay attention to the language and levels of language they use in their communications. Having had experience of teaching abroad, and teaching in English, I was constantly monitoring what I said, and what words were used so my students could understand and this facilitate engagement

Journalists have to be where the people are in language terms, and not where the journalists think they should be. If you dont utilise language the general public understands, then who are you really communicating with, yourselves and the elite?

It would appear that such attitudes are perpetuated by the ‘Westminster Bubble’ and exclude the general public, who it is stated are really the audience of the journalists output..


Furthermore, journalists have to be removed from their ‘cosy’ Westminster/London centric environment.to report on regional issues to a national audience. Senior journalists have to understand what the UK ‘world’ looks like, feels like out of London, and why ‘levelling up’ society is so important. Professional journalists whose role means they have a national remit, have to work at least 50% of their time in the regions around England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Poverty and challenge are not always in the expected areas.


To emphasise this, in West Somerset where I live, the State of the Nation Report: Social

Mobility in Great Britain in 2017, revealed that West Somerset was the least socially

mobile area in Great Britain, 324th out of 324, with associated levels of poverty and

multiple deprivation, reconfirmed by the latest data from the Index of Deprivation, 2019.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/662744/State_of_the_Nation_2017_-_Social_Mobility_in_Great_Britain.pdf  https://maps.cdrc.ac.uk/#/geodemographics/imde2019/default/BTTTFFT/12.916593071005313/-3.4245/51.1915/ (see screen shot below).


However, who comes to West Somerset to report about our challenges and what needs to happen to effect positive change and improve life chances here?



6.0              Conclusions


Thank you very much for allowing me to make this submission to the Inquiry on the future of Journalism which has been instituted by the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee. The topic of the behaviour of journalists has been one that caused me increasing irritation, and now having read around the topic for this paper, profound anger.


Journalists are in a very special, privileged and often unique position in a world that has never been more connected from a communication perspective. This means that commonly, UK journalists are also the direct and indirect voice of what is happening in the UK that the rest of the world sees and hears about. Thus it is their output that can

positively or negatively influence how the rest of the World perceives the UK, whether this is based in fact, or not. Commonly however, journalists perhaps accidentally, or more purposefully exploit their position, leaving behind them a ‘wake/tidal wave’ of mistrust, disrespect for individuals and their well being, and leaving the UK public less informed, engaged and educated than they should be. So, I am left seriously questioning whether we need professional journalists, and if there really is a future for them at all in this digital/5G age? How can they do a better job at communicating the issues locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, and concerns of the populous, and helping them seek redress, when they are so self absorbed? Surely, given the technical means at fingertips today, everyone and anyone can be a journalist?


One area I haven’t really addressed is that of political impartiality. It is another major area which compromises the value of the journalist, unless, like the source of any material, a political affiliation is declared, so their perspective can be put into context. As things stand, it appears to me that most journalists are the spokespersons of their right wing, left wing, liberal bosses who own the media organisations they work for, despite there being prominent statements that journalists should be independent voices.


2.              Independence


Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors – or the audience – any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.


So, sadly as I look back to the beginning of this piece, and reflect on the 10 essential  obligations of a journalist, I am left to conclude that from my experience of their output, especially, their management of COVID-19, I find they are wholly failing to meet these 10 essential obligations, and thus, I can see a very diminished future for professional journalists, but, even more sadly, I hear my sentiments echoed around me, with a voice that is reaching a cacophony.



August 2020



[1]              http://studylecturenotes.com/what-is-community-meaning-and-definition-of-community/

[2]               http://studylecturenotes.com/what-is-society-meaning-and-definition-of-society/

[3]               http://studylecturenotes.com/functions-of-journalism-are-to-inform-educate-guide-and-entertain/

[4]               https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/what-we-do/accountable-journalism

[5]               https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/who-we-are/5-principles-of-journalism

[6]               https://accountablejournalism.org/ethics-codes/International-Declaration

[7]               https://accountablejournalism.org/ethics-codes/International-Declaration

[8]              https://www.bbc.com/editorialguidelines/guidelines/editorial-standards

[9]               https://www.bbc.com/editorialguidelines/guidelines/editorial-standards

[10]               https://www.nuj.org.uk/about/nuj-code/

[11]               http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2014/news/time-to-move-on-says-satchwell-after-hacking-verdicts/

[12]               https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/08/the-tragic-downfall-of-british-media-tabloids-brexit/

[13]               https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7104635/

[14]               https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/news-avoidance-uk-remains-high-lockdown-restrictions-are-eased

[15]               https://www.facebook.com/groups/771037376763597

[16]               https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/polis/2020/04/24/why-public-trust-is-an-issue-for-news-media-but-dont-trust-those-polls/

[17]               https://www.lse.ac.uk/media-and-communications/truth-trust-and-technology-commission

[18]               https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/news/documents/2020-06/veracity_index_2020.pdf

[19]               https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/content/uploads/2017/05/2017-Future-of-Journalism-FINAL.pdf, p 15

[20]               E.g. https://fullfact.org/

[21]               https://fullfact.org/education/gavin-williamson-fake-quote/

[22]               https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/who-we-are/5-principles-of-journalism