Flat Earth News

Integrity and journalism

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Tagged: / Posted: 29 April 2012

I have just spent an intense 24 hours reading 'flat earth news' from cover to cover. Thank you for writing it! It brought to mind an experience some years ago, in the mid-90s, when I signed up for a 6-week introductory course in journalism at my local adult education provider in Balham, south London. In the very first session, the tutor asked us to say what we thought were the essential attributes of a good journalist. I offered 'integrity' as my answer and he literally laughed in my face saying 'integrity? that's the last thing a good journalist needs'. I walked out of the session and never went back.

I have worked in the field of young people's sexual health for many years, including 5 years working directly to reduce under-18 conceptions and I was repeatedly appalled by reporter requests to interview 'your youngest teen mum' or the scandalous headlines every time we opened a new sexual health service for young people. I have yet to see a single scrap of news coverage about young people and sex, sexual health or sexual health services which is fully factually correct, that does not uphold narrow and deroragatory views of young people or does not reflect an ill-informed judgement on what 'sex education' actually involves or why it is important.

Since I cannot believe anything that is written in the newspapers about the subjects I am expert in because I know them to be wrong, I realise that I cannot believe coverage of those things about which I know little either. It makes me feel quite nauseous to know that I am being manipulated and not informed by a 'free press' that is supposed to be the envy of the 'free world'. I will be recommending that all my colleagues read this book, I will quote it when my training participants bring Daily Mail articles in as evidence, I will wear my own 'hated by the Daily Mail' badge with pride and I will continue to seek out and share better sources of information.

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