‘I acknowledge the right of an army to exploit the media to confuse the enemy,” wrote Reuters editor-in-chief Geert Linnebank in Tuesday’s Independent. “But it is our job not to fall for it.” In which case, how good a job are we doing? Like the war itself, it’s a confused picture. Some snapshots: Robert Fisk is slated by some for writing Iraqi “propaganda”. Others slam The Sun for its “jingoism”. Peter Arnett is fired from NBC for giving an interview to Iraqi TV. The Mirror hires him. The “embeds” send back their reports of frontline action while the “unilaterals” sweat on the borders or in Baghdad’s Hotel Palestine.
As Linnebank says, no single battlefield reporter ever gave a complete picture of a war. But between the lot of them, so far, they’re making a pretty good fist of it.
Sir Christopher moves in
This week, Sir Christopher Meyer moved into his new office as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. He arrives in Salisbury Square at a critical time. A time at which Gerald Kaufman’s “Alice in Wonderland” select committee (© Les Hinton) is about to enter the final stages of its tea-party deliberations. A time at which some editors disagree about the path the commission should take. A time at which the rumblings of politicians wanting to bring it under some form of statutory control still sound. In short, as PCC director Guy Black said recently, a very dangerous time.
Sir Christopher will need all his considerable powers of wit, political skill and diplomacy to negotiate through these turbulent waters. We wish him all the best.
Training fog lurks again
So it’s farewell to the publishing industry’s National Training Organisation. Formed in 2001, it had managed to get training representatives of the magazine, regional newspaper and national newspaper industries to pull up chairs at the same table. No mean feat. For the first time, there was even the chance of some degree of unity when it came to training the journalists of the future. They would be presented with a clear training path instead of being lost in the fog of confusion. Not any more.
Less than two years later, government policy has changed all that. Under its new rules, the publishing industry – with revenue of a mere £30bn – is not considered strategically significant enough to have its own training body looking after the 280,000 people it employs.
As the Publishing NTO members leave the table, let’s hope they take with them some of the positive aspects of pulling in the same direction. Otherwise there’s a real danger the fog will descend again.