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THE ROLE OF JOURNALISM TRAINING is as much important in the Leveson Inquiry as is the probing into what some naughty “qualified” hacks have been getting up to on their beasts of publications such as busted News of the World.
His evidence was engaging. Anyone who has been through the shackles of journalism training will know that a lot of what is taught on some courses, doesn’t really prepare you for the “real world” of story gathering on a major publication, or even on a local publication.
Leigh said he would like to have the Press Complaints Commission abolished – the very code that is rammed down trainee’s throats every day of their journalism training lives.
He also said that there should be “punitive” damages for newspapers who breach privacy. He said that if the law was such, newspapers would refrain from that type of news gathering. Leigh also told Leveson that he thought that a lot of what is taught on newspaper courses is far from what you practice on the “big beast.”
But he didn’t totally dispute that the mixture of tittle tattle, idle gossip, and serious investigative work could be blended on a newspaper – like the News of the World which closed down in July.
Leigh is right. Trainee journalists have “ethics” rammed down their throat all the time. The PCC Leigh said though, was more of a fixer, rather than a regulator – just designed to get politicians off their backs.
Last week, an ex tabloid hack Richard Peppiatt said that there were times when he simply made up quotes for the Star newspaper, and even made up sources to try to give the story weight.
The Leveson Inquiry should also be a wake up call for all those involved in seeking to give the next generation of journalists the very best and broadest education possible.
It’s as much about making trainees aware that there is indeed a distinction between the real world journalism from that of the passive sleepy classroom of media law and ethics and government.
You come into the job to seek the truth – and some, rightly or wrongly, think that in seeking that truth, the law has to be crossed in order to write the truth.
Those trainees who enter it should be told the truth by media tutors and their course superiors – when it comes to the possible, and I say, illegal means that may be entered into, or indeed, suggested, to get the story you want.
Perhaps journalism colleges and universities should try to engage their trainees more with this real world, rather than trainees just getting the “token” one week or two week gloss of work experience placements. I, for one, know that what happened on two week’s work experience was not enough to give me a digestible knowledge of how journalists search their souls when they are researching and obtaining a story for publication. It’s simply just not enough to be in a newsroom re-writing press releases all day, or, indeed following a hack around a court. .
From the City University website…below, David Leigh profile…
Professor Leigh is one of Britain's leading investigative journalists, and winner of the 2007 Paul Foot Award for Campaigning Journalism. David is Assistant Editor at The Guardian, with special responsibility for investigations.
He has also worked in London at the Observer, where he ran an investigation team, and at The Times. He has won seven press awards, including Granada's Investigative Journalist of the Year, the British Press Awards Campaigning Journalist of the Year, and an award from the UK Freedom of Information Campaign.
In 2006 he was Highly Commended for investigations into alleged corruption at BAE Systems. His books include The Liar (an account of the Jonathan Aitken affair); Sleaze (the story of the Neil Hamilton case) and a book campaigning for freedom of information legislation.