The Sun asks: Have you no shame?

November 13, 2008

An article in today’s Sun entitled ‘Have you no shame’, calls for readers to petition against the lack of apology from social services in relation to ‘Baby P’, denouncing them as “shameful, disgusting, cowardly and disgraceful”.

While this is a one-sided but valid point, putting individual head-shots of social workers alongside tag-lines such as ‘PASSED THE BUCK’ ‘RETURNED TOT TO MUM’ and ‘TAKEN IN BY A LIAR’, asking members of the public who know the named and shamed, to call, text, or email (numbers supplied) The Sun with information, is in itself shameful.

Social services have helped vast numbers of children. And the system they operate under has huge legal and beurocratic restrictions.

The fact this baby underwent enormous physical and emotional pain should not be excused, and the people responsible for what happened should be penalised. But it should not be a witch-hunt.

Radio 4’s Analysis: Responsible Journalism raised questions about whether our newspapers have a responsibility to make the public space a better place.

The programme discussed some people’s attitudes about how ethics have no place in journalism. Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History, University of Westminster, who was taking part on the show said: “The press in Britain feels as if on the whole it would rather there was a scandal and involved somebody in charge’s blood”.

Sure The Sun raises a valuable point. But is it responsible to put faces of vulnerable, and possibly innocent people in the newspaper and online?

Martin Moore, Director of Media Standards’ Trust, was also taking part on the show. He hit the nail on the head: “There is a tone that the press takes. It tends to be sceptical, highly aggressive and somewhat hysterical. And to a certain extent one could argue that this is positive because it raises issues to high on the agenda very quickly, it brings them to people’s attention very fast. At the same time, it can alienate many people from the debate itself because they’re either scared to participate themselves or because they just don’t want to engage in something of such high tempo and such hysteria”. (see here)

Listen to the show, its not very long, but really fascinating.

Journalists who don’t report responsibly will both alienate and potentially harm people. Referring to my blog How the media loses friends and alienates people, from a business perspective, journalists cannot afford to estrange any more of their readers.

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One Response to “The Sun asks: Have you no shame?”

  1. alex davies said

    I agree with your idea that journalists have a duty to be responsible as people love a witch hunt, often ones that are hyped up by the media (think Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross, the McCanns, etc). Maybe it’s hard to find a balance between a business that needs to sell papers/make money and making sure the reporting is balanced.

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