Reclaiming journalism as a force for good

Journalists are different.

There are characteristics, somehow wired into their DNA, that makes them look at the world in a way that the rest of it doesn’t.

Just
one of these genetic anomalies is the thick skin gene. It’s the one
that allows them to ask the questions that others want to, but don’t
dare. The one that means they can still hold their heads up when asked
at a party what they do for a living, knowing there will be a slight
recoil when they answer. It’s also the one that enables them to read
the lists of “most hated professions” knowing that they will inevitably
be up at the top, jostling for the reviled crown with politicians and
estate agents.

But wait a minute.

Why should it be that
journalists are viewed in such a dim light by the public that they
serve? Why is it, when so many patently positive things come from
newspapers, magazines, web sites and news broadcasts, that those who
put them together are often so reviled?

We commissioned our
opinion poll to examine the public’s view of our profession with the
expectation that the results might be dire.

But the picture that emerged gave plenty of grounds for encouragement.

For
a start, more than half said they felt that journalism made a positive
contribution to British society – nearly 10 per cent of them thought so
strongly.

Fewer than a third felt that the reverse was true.

It’s
not an overwhelming landslide. And it’s hardly reason for complacency.
But it does prove that there is more support for us out there than
often meets the eye.

For one reason, we may be able to look at
the coverage of the Asian tsunami disaster. We asked how much influence
journalists’ reports had on the generosity that the British public
displayed in digging so deep to pledge money.

A massive 47 per
cent said that their donations were directly affected by the reports
that they read in their newspapers, watched on their televisions and
heard on their radios.

With more than £100 million pledged in all, that’s a hell of a positive contribution.

As an industry we can be proud of that.

As individuals we can learn lessons from it.

And we can now say it with real conviction: journalism is a force for good. That’s official.

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