"No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?"
"No question now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."- George Orwell, Animal Farm
In an almost rehearsed testimony to life imitating art, I have found myself embroiled in an ongoing argument/discussion so Animal Farm-esque in nature, were George Orwell himself to overhear it he might be convinced that he was watching a play based on his book.
For some reason I cannot fathom, I have become entangled in a call and respond battle in multiple media with a certain columnist over my calling for a Journalistic Code of Ethics to prevent active journalists using the media profession as a stepping stone to Government employment.
It is patently obvious (and agreed to by those who defend the other side of the argument) that the plum positions would only be offered to those perceived to be 'friendly' to the Administration, and how else would one demonstrate such friendliness other than advocating on their behalf through the only means at one's disposal?
It is my position that to demonstrate friendliness with either side is to practice biased journalism, which undermines the purpose of the profession in the first place.
What amazes me the most is not so much the journalists and media workers themselves who see this as a promotion, but the lay people who, because of Party support or affiliation, fail to understand the purpose the media serves in society and why there MUST be a clear separation between the two. In keeping with the analogical reference to Orwell, like pigs herded for slaughter, these 'apologists' are acting in support of the farmer against their own kind.
"They had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes." - George Orwell, Animal Farm
As an aside and to inform, please move away from the illusion that Government is somehow in the business of serving the people. Government serves its investors, its members, and established big business in furthering the profit enterprise. This is of course repackaged and sold to the lay people as providing jobs and services, when what is in fact obtaining is the use of law and brute force to keep the masses in semi bondage and economic servitude. In other words, people are seen as workers and consumers to business, and Government's role is to assist business to achieve profit.
Fortunately freedom of the press, the platform from which the people are (supposed to be) protected from abuse of Government and informed as to where the two interests collide, has found itself guaranteed by supreme law and remains the last hope for free men to remain free.
This is the ONLY reason for lay people to care about what happens to media, and the reason we must all work to halt the Governmental encroachment into its independence through the use of State force and public money as punishment and reward; Wherever abuse is to be practiced, free media is the first to die.
Reporting versus Editorializing
Generally, publishers and consumers of journalism draw a distinction between reporting — "just the facts" — and opinion writing, often by restricting opinion columns to the editorial page and its facing or "op-ed" (opposite the editorials) page. Unsigned editorials are traditionally the official opinions of the paper's editorial board, while op-ed pages may be a mixture of syndicated columns and other contributions, frequently with some attempt to balance the voices across some political or social spectrum.
Objectivity is a significant principle of journalistic professionalism.
It may mean fairness, disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship. The term has not only a single meaning, because journalists and the public use it in these different ways. In many countries, advocacy journalism is considered as a legitimate sort of professional journalism.
Few journalists would make a claim to total neutrality or impartiality. However, most try to keep distance from their own personal biases in their news work. In Discovering the News (1978), sociologist Michael Schudson argues that "the belief in objectivity is a faith in 'facts,' a distrust in 'values,' and a commitment to their segregation." In the United States, an objective story is typically considered to be one that steers a middle path between two poles of political rhetoric.
Journalism without any bias, as if one just came to Earth from another planet and had no opinions about our behavior or ways is rarely practiced, although some argue it would lead to radical changes in reporting and, in a microcosm of a society like ours where everyone is connected to everyone else, should be par for the course.
Biased journalism hijacks the media for personal gain and enslaves the people in rhetoric spewed by self serving politicians, repackaged by self serving journalists and served to an unsuspecting public as news & opinion.
In the society we should want to create all men should be free, and institutions like the media should be strengthened and untethered from any State dependent moorings to guarantee and enforce that freedom.
According to The Elements of Journalism, a book by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, there are nine elements of journalism. In order for a journalist to fulfill their duty of providing the people with the information, they need to be free and self-governing.
They must follow these guidelines:
- Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
- Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
- Its essence is discipline of verification.
- Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
- It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
- It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
- It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
- It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
- Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
- Its the rights and responsibilities of citizens.
I am not against anyone 'eatin' ah food' as it has been described to me, but the sacred professions should not be a means to that end. Put another way, self enrichment as a goal should not use journalism as a vehicle to get there.
Journalistic excellence must be of such a caliber as to live on and provide a clear beacon to a better place for all and not just be confined to bringing news. If that is not the case, then the question will be asked what is the point of journalism in this new world of instant communication, with personal information retrieval devices in everyone's pocket delivering news as it occurs, and where the news printed in a newspaper is already hours old, stale dated and old news by the time the paper hits the street.
"Frightened though they were, some of the animals might possibly have protested, but at this moment the sheep set up their usual bleating of "Four legs good, two legs bad," which went on for several minutes and put an end to the discussion." - George Orwell, Animal Farm
The challenge to the Media Association of Trinidad & Tobago is to not only advocate for and create much better working conditions for its members, it must also work to keep the profession in step with and ahead of existing trends if it is to survive the overload of data referred to as the information age.
It must also demand higher standards of excellence in the profession through the enforcement of a Journalistic Code of Ethics if the members are to reap the true rewards of their career choice, and for the public to give the media the respect it deserves.