The people’s journalism

Baroness Deech

The Olympics have brought Twitter into the news, as millions of spectators give their instant opinions on the games and the athletes.  Some of it is illiterate and hurtful, but there is little control, and freedom of speech is gaining ground as the internet principle.  It was reported recently that a man who tweeted in frustration that he wanted to blow up an airport because it had ground to a halt escaped conviction; the judge said that it was obviously not “menacing”, which is what was required for a criminal offence. Freedom of expression on the internet contrasts with the constraints placed on newspaper reporting, and this makes the next topic of investigation by my Select Committee on Communications very timely.  It is “convergence”, namely a study of the ways in which broadcasting, television, print journalism and social media are coming together, often all accessible on one handheld device.  Does it therefore make sense to regulate these outlets separately or not at all? what will be the rationale for the TV licence if the audience abandons the fixed TV set and watches the programmes on the computer or ipad? The Committee invites submissions from the public to help it to focus on the most important issues arising out of convergence.

All this focus on journalism also made the investigative journalism debate on 25 July in the Grand Committee very interesting.  It arose out of the report by my committee on Investigative Journalism in February this year –  You can read my speech here – at col. GC331.  It seems to me that since younger people are less likely to read newspapers and be influenced by them, and more likely to access news digitally, the influence of newspapers on voting habits has been exaggerated and that the Leveson Inquiry may well be the last gasp of an old order.  A more personalised and unregulated form of news gathering and reading is taking over, certainly if one tweets.  I also said that it was time that we knew more about journalists – whether they were being paid or paying in relation to stories, what gifts and hospitality they receive (this idea comes from Baroness O’Neill’s Reuters Memorial Lecture 2011 –

I added to this that we ought to know the educational and ethnic background of journalists.  They are always calling for more transparency in relation to the social mobility, gender and ethnicity data of politicians, trustees and professionals.  Journalists should not exempt themselves from this scrutiny, given their influence. And then today on Radio 4 Thinking Allowed  programme called “Jobs for the Boys”, the presenter Laurie Taylor took up the theme. Unsurprisingly, research from the Sutton Trust, referred to on the programme ( has unearthed that over half of the top journalists were privately educated and about 80% attended Oxford and Cambridge.  So no more lectures from them please about exclusivity in universities and the professions.

11 comments for “The people’s journalism

  1. Gareth Howell
    02/08/2012 at 8:55 am

    The noble baroness is to be thanked for her very interesting post…. in this particularly silly Olympic season.

    I have not been able to undertsand the point of the Leveson enquiry, unless it is some kind of backhanded or cackhanded attack on computer hacking, and even computer hacking may not be the problem it was.(I have not heard what happened to the UK citizen who had to go to the US to answer Pentagon computer hacking charges).

    One of the main concerns of computer anti-hackers was online banking security,
    which seems to have been magnificently solved
    with the random mathematical numbers of “Pin-sentry”, which all the banks now use.

    “Cookies” on my computer, if I contact a hard copy newspaper website, worry me. I delete them every time.

    Alexander Chancellor, a former editor of any number of daily papers, used to spread his family news all over the newspaper so liberally, we would have been jolly thankful NOT to know his ethnic or religious background, but he was paid for some time to plaster it on page 3, bless ‘im! (just one example).

    Controversial news, one sometimes wonders about the Muslim/Christian/Jewish background of the correspondent, and names by no means always reveal all.

    The TV licence is not a problem for me. I have only watched catch up TV for several years now on my PC, and therefore do not pay the licence, but the service has become worse and worse, (to the non-payer!) and I am considering a large screen for my living room now that digital technology has settled
    in to its groove.

    A transmission arriving by aerial is the only way to receive programmes reliably, without breaks in the phone connection, so the TV licence may well be safe. (Yuck!)

    ipad/computer TVprogramme downloads will only at best ever be casual and occasional, and do not even need surveillance.

    I hope those remarks help the noble baroness chair.

  2. MilesJSD
    02/08/2012 at 3:14 pm

    If anything, British Governance is to be condemned, not praised,
    for failing to both distinguish mindfully,
    and to legislate in proactive-support towards,

    the 75%-timeframed Lifeplace-Mobilities needs
    of the whole of this 63-million-heads Nation,

    as contrasted with the mere
    25%-timeframed smaller workforce’s
    highly competitive and ‘gloves-off’
    win-lose-lose Workplace-Upwards-Verticality (being deceptively and fallaciously titled and bandied about as
    “Social Mobility”.
    and many other screwed-up-mind-functional excrescences from our Dominating-Pseudo-Educated-Classes
    needs to be combed out and cleaned up

    before you can identify and clearly denote every honestly-real Topic and Issue
    that Peoples are having to blood-spillingly-struggle to survive-against.

    Without this latter Clarity and Honesty you are never going to establish Participatory-Democracy;
    nor even improve your existing
    of Democracy.

  3. maude elwes
    02/08/2012 at 3:41 pm

    A TV license is ridiculous although a nice earner for the beeb. Who simply spread it around like confettie without producing much worthwhile. It’s an old boys payout. I don’t have one as I don’t watch TV directly. Only if something is mentioned that I should or must see, do I look it up a day or two later on my PC. I have never missed not having one. In fact, to this day, I feel it was the best decision I ever made to rid myself of it.

    And, it will get worse unless those who do watch protest by not switching on and refusing to pay for what they don’t want. It is forced viewing if you watch simply because nothing else is better on another channel. A choice of idiocy is an idiots choice.

    Journalists being required to give their private information because they inform and comment is another nail in the coffin of freedom of information, freedom of expression and freedom in general. It is insidious and reminiscent of Germany in the 30’s and 40’s. What kind of people can come up with such strait jackets? Are you all oblivious to the destruction you are creating with all this heavy censorship.

    To have to give this kind of information if you run for office, or, take up a seat in the Lords is quite a different matter. Those offices of privilege can be open to invaders of secret societies and political infiltrators if certain checks are not made. The public have a right to know who they are voitng for and what their objectives are or may be for their future.

    This is why it is imperative those who run for Parliament, in any way or position, give honest evaluations and intentions to those who cannot elect them freely unless they know what is being planned behind closed doors. Spin doctors and those behind the scenes are not the people we vote for and should not be in positions of power.

    Take this news we have that Blair is back in position of adviser to New Labour. He is an unelected person who the nation was rid of, and without putting himself up again for scrunity or being questioned on his motives, which may be sinister, has deemed himself fit to walk back into our places of power, through the back door. Even though many consider him unfit for purpose. Who can believe this is appropriate?

    And this educational background check before you can write as a journalist is definitely odd. What on earth does the educational background have to do with whether a person wants to inform or to offer a viewpoint? Should the person turn out to be an idiot, it becomes quite clear to the listener within a few seconds.

    Eductional background is often simply indoctrination. Especailly in this politically correct bonanza we dwell with here in the UK. What you may term as informed ideas are often no more enlightening than a narrow view of doctrine.

    What strikes me in this thread is, the fear of alternative views. The internet is full of information from the world wide web, some valid and some not. But the individual can decide for themselves what they want to take from that. It is called free thinking. And the thirst for it is insurmountable. You will not squash the desire to cross information boundaries unless you turn off the access. Shut down the net.

    What really is going on here, is fear of loss of ultimate power. Who decides who will know what and when. The revellation of what is really going on is frightening those who wish to deceive.

    Funny how the money it produces is craved, but the freedom it gives abhored.

    • Baroness Deech
      Baroness Deech
      03/08/2012 at 5:06 pm

      I am not suggesting a check on journalists before they write, but simply that it is interesting to see where they are coming from, after the event. And as for the importance of educational background, why so much fuss over the private school domination of Olympics Gold Medallists, as just reported? Natural ability, select them at a young age, special training, huge effort, gold result, vast acclaim. This is OK for sport apparently, but not for school education!

      • Lord Blagger
        03/08/2012 at 5:24 pm

        The state can’t have people making a choice.

        They know they would vote to spend their money outside the state sector, and that would lead to quicker collapse than is going to happen.

        So much for Peers scrutiny of government that they can’t even check for state pension debts.

      • maude elwes
        05/08/2012 at 6:03 pm

        I am puzzled, Baroness, why a check after they have written? What would that promote? It smells of totalitarianism to me. Don’t like what they write and, whoosh, away with them to the salt mines, making sure they don’t have another opportunity to do so in the same vein. Similar to the old Hollywood mantra, you will never work in this town again, unless I need you. That’s what happened to Mickey Rooney.

        You are right about selection. It is absurd to pretend people are all equal in various fields of talent. Nothing could be more off the wall. Often, very bright people indeed, are not suited to academia. Their flair is in another direction, no matter where they originate.

        Independant schools have continued with the notion that an all round opportunity is the best way to offer an outlet for chidren of varied ability. Inspiration to aspire. They still do games and kept their sports facilities going. Because they know that children need physical stimulation in order to create a healthy adept brain. Work hard and play hard is the only way to fulfilment.

        Opportunity and exposure to all facets of the human mind is how genius is created. And the pretence that the mind of the male and female in society beats to the same drum is absurd.

        Women who become physicist are still women and enjoy that sense of womanhood felt whilst doing their task. It is quite different to the needs of the male. His instinct leads him toward a different realisation of satisfaction. Both genders have equal desire for this explosion of self. Otherwise, they falter.

        In the main, State schools are oblivious to this separation of mind over matter. Which is why our talents in this country are often stultified.

        There is nothing more torturous to bright children than finding themselves penned in with the mundane.

        • maude elwes
          06/08/2012 at 4:36 pm

          And Melanie Phillips sometimes gets it right. Here is one of those times.

          It’s headed, ‘Hypocrisy of the rich liberals who buy their way out of the schools calamity their dogma created.’

          Now a new law should be passed, very quickly, that denies anyone who claimed to hold such policies as, for the good of the little people, should be denied the right to get out of that misery by paying for their kids to circumvent it. They should be forced to send their kids into the same mayhem as the ordinary people have to bear. And, they should have ‘no get out clause’ to place them out of their catchment area either. No opting for Faith schools in better neighbourhoods. No, the same local mess they push on the rest of us must be theirs as well. That is justice.

          • Lord Blagger
            06/08/2012 at 7:35 pm

            I quite like the idea of double the pain, half the gain.

            So politicians pay double taxes. Doubled prison sentences, ….

            They only get half the subsidies. …

  4. Croft
    04/08/2012 at 1:40 pm

    “what will be the rationale for the TV licence if the audience abandons the fixed TV set and watches the programmes on the computer or ipad?”

    Iirc the law was changed recently to cover wathing tv programmes on the pc needing a tv-licence

    “Does it therefore make sense to regulate these outlets separately or not at all?”

    I’m not sure which I find more depressing – the way regulaters like most public bodies seem obsessed with expanding their power/remit or the fundermental ignorance that they believe they can regulate the internet in whole or part in anything but a token way.

  5. Lord Blagger
    06/08/2012 at 11:09 am

    Not if you watch the problem later

  6. Baroness Deech
    Baroness Deech
    13/08/2012 at 6:13 pm

    Well, now we have the information about schools and universities of Guardian journalists and guess what! see this link

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