Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What journalists find amazing

Just returned from a forum organized by the Exiled Journalists Network (who appear to have exiled the apostrophe) who appear to be a useful bunch of people, though I am not that impressed by the patrons: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who is known to us all, Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society, who has his moments of sanity, Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News International Editor and former NUJ President Tim Lezard (and the less one says about the NUJ in connection with media freedom, the better).

This particular forum was of great interest as it was about the situation in Belarus, a country that has somehow become everybody's favourite tyranny, so the Left feels justified in talking about it. Apparently, President Lukashenka is well aware of this anomalous and, to him, not unuseful situation. At a recent press conference he said to the assembled hacks proponents of journalistic integrity that they should be very happy to talk to him as he was "Europe's last tyrant", a moniker he clearly revels in.

This story was told by Mike Jempson, Director of the co-sponsoring organization, the MediaWise Trust and he was not amused by the idea that this Belarussian dictator should be amusing himself at the journos' expense.

Even less amused was Marc Gruber, who was there from the International Federation of Journalists, a self-important group about which we have written before. He had looked up Belarus on Google News and found that in all languages there were more stories about football than about the rather dubiously run elections. How could this be so? How could journalists be so forgetful of their high calling?

Well now, could this have anything to do with the fact that journalists and editors are interested in selling their particular brand of the media (except for the BBC who have an earmarked income but that's another story) and there are more people out there interested in football than in elections in far-off countries of which they know little, care even less and where the chances of a free and fair vote are remote? Is Mr Gruber not a journalist himself?

Some of us would welcome serious reporting of news from a little nearer home, such as the European Union. It seems that reporting from absolutely everywhere is now left to the blogs. We shall endeavour to provide a substitute for the Big Media.