Wednesday, December 07, 2005
I took this picture in official capacity. So normally I would have avoided adding it here but I like the atmosphere, its structure and tones, the play of light. We live with these guys, they influence our opinions and our lives in so many ways. They may not start wars but certainly play their fair share in fuelling them. They play all sides and none. They are witnesses and judges. I believe there is a serious ethical and professional crisis in the world of journalism today. I am aware that even without the systematic attack on the freedom of speech making all journalist look like saints my opinions may cross a dangerous line. I am the first to admit that it is probably better to have an unchecked irresponsible media then a checked responsible one. Beyond that all encompassing statement is a whole world of uncertainty. I have no one size fits all opinion here. At best I am puzzled by what the answer should be. I see, and I strongly believe I am not alone in this opinion, a constant degrading of both the informative and formative value of the western media. While its importance remains critical its freedom, authenticity and impact are under threat. The same may not be true about the media in developing world or in countries struggling for freedom but I do not know. Reports on the topic tend to be inconsistent, marred by mistakes, political bias and lack of subtlety. What is certain is that the last few years have abounded in situations in which the media were treated like a docile instrument of politics (and the truth of the matter was that more often then not the media are content with this role - and not only under totalitarian regimes) . The last few month offered us both cases of superb resistance to pressure and also sad and dangerous cases of irresponsible coverage not to mention straight out lying or inventing stories sometimes at highly reputed and well regarded media outlets. Then so often the media picks up and sometimes inflates seemingly incredible, impossible and dangerous stories on TV stations about to be attacked for their coverage of Iraq, of journalist targeted, imprisoned and killed. Stories so wacky that may be true in a Robert Ludlum novel though reality tends to belie those daily.
I have no idea whether the crisis belongs to western journalism or western society or both. The thing is that I hope to see a change. The down of the electronic virtual and global media is probably a good thing. I find serious blogs and internet based papers often highly responsible, positive and structured despite being often a pool of data and information from myriads of sources. Maybe the sheer statistic impact of millions of contributors will even out the negative effects of manipulation and bias. The debate in Tunis just a few days ago was in this respect relevant and important. Keeping the internet free is probably as important as keeping the black press published in the XVIII century USA or the underground Liberation in Nazi Germany occupied France.
I have no TV, or at least no cable and I feel better informed. I am indeed lucky to have several different layers of information channels available all the time but I relish in the "freedom" from the daily quota of TV digested "information".
So when I so this picture and its classical "journalist pounce", "media heat" or "in front of the cameras" feel I stopped and pondered a bit more on the relevance of Chomsky. Yeah, I know I am not sure I want to go there ....