TV news veteran Chris Cramer has condemned declining standards in broadcast and print journalism and made an impassioned plea for reporters to keep hold of their “moral compass”.
In a speech at Nottingham Trent University last night, the new global multimedia editor at Reuters News said he was worried by the prevalence of ‘lousy journalism’and a sensationalist approach to news where “there is little or no distinction between a terrorist attack and a fat cat stuck up a tree somewhere”.
‘Take it from me that much of it – print and broadcast – is thrashing about in an identity crisis, trying to rediscover its connection point with the consumer, experimenting with raucous news delivery, opinionated ranting and what I call ‘shout and scream TV news’ where every story is a crisis, every day is chaos,’Cramer said.
‘Everything is presented to create fear and conflict. There is a criminal on every corner. Al Qaeda lives next door. It’s a good day when the threat alert is only orange.”
Too much cant and rant
Cramer, a former BBC News executive, retired from his role as CNN International managing director last year. In his new job, he oversees Reuters’ multimedia journalism, reporting to editor-in-chief David Schlesinger.
He said that while Reuters journalists were required to adhere to the group’s principles of integrity, independence and freedom from bias, the same could not be said for a number of other news providers.
‘There is plenty of lousy journalism out there today, which may be why the public are so distrusting of the traditional media,” he said.
‘There is too much journalism with cant and rant and a not so cleverly disguised, camouflaged, axe-to-grind point of view – news which says it is trusted and fair and balanced and which is patently anything but.
‘Please don’t misunderstand me. I have nothing against opinionated news. Some people like their news to come with a spin and a certain shrillness. But we need to label it as such. This is opinion.”
Has technology driven us mad?
Cramer gave the example of an American newspaper which recently used mobile blogging service Twitter to provide live updates from the funeral of a child.
‘I read the most disgusting reporting from a local reporter actually sending text reports from the graveside as parents buried their three-year-old – describing the teddy bear in the coffin, the parents on their knees sobbing,’he said.
‘Has information technology driven us all mad? Doesn’t sensitive reporting and editorial integrity still have a place in today’s media? What use is news and information from any party without complete editorial integrity? Shouldn’t we all have a simple set of values to guide us – a moral compass?”
He concluded: ‘Journalists and the media need to build trust and practise integrity each and every day. Those over-arching principles set us all apart from the unprincipled mob.
‘Even as we embrace every new information platform available to us, we need to stay focused on integrity.”