In the wake of my recent piece on ‘when is a PR disaster not a PR disaster’ (ie when it’s a gaffe by a media organ) Paul Chadwick almost magically writes on a related topic in todays Age newspaper following a speech he made to the Melbourne Press Club (Paul Chadwick is director of editorial policies at the ABC.)
He cites another coupla journalism PR disasters, leading with one that “involves the resignation in March this year of Los Angeles Times opinion page editor Andres Martinez. When Martines’zezz’s’ romance with a member of a Hollywood PR agency became known, the blogosphere asked, with some intensity, whether the relationship had affected decisions that had put clients of the agency on the prestigious Los Angeles Times opinion page. Martinez blogged back, denying a conflict. But the self-organising newsroom of cyberspace persisted and Martinez was forced out.”
Chadwick goes on to explain how accountability is as much a media concern that it is of those they seek to keep accountable!! And he emphasises that the move to increased transparency will be further “empowered by remarkable advances in information and communications technology.”
For journalism to survive this process, Chadwick cites the advice of the executive editor of The New York Times, Bill Keller, not to be distracted, defensive, self-absorbed or self-promoting.
“Journalism becomes a never-ending organic business of placing material in the public domain â€¦ Everything we do will be more contestable, more open to challenge and alternative interpretation â€¦ When we publish something that’s wrong, is it better invisibly to mend it so that the mistake is removed from the permanent record, or is it more important to record or capture the fact of the untrue publication as well as the correction or clarification? The environment for all journalism is changing fast. One aspect of that change is a new transparency about the process of journalism itself. Transparency can be as discomforting to journalists as it can be for the people those journalists themselves scrutinise in the course of their work.
In a democracy, public power that is not accountable is not legitimate. Media wield public power. Unless accountable, unless legitimate, media will not be trusted. If media are not trusted, a participatory democracy weakens.