Is the Leveson Inquiry Pointless in Today’s Online Media…

The Leveson report devotes very little space to the impact of the internet on journalism. Photograph: Sinister pictures/Demotix/Corbis

The Leveson report devotes very little space to the impact of the internet on journalism. Photograph: Sinister pictures/Demotix/Corbis

…most probably, yes. His mistake of not tackling the internet is a great one. Many journalists have expressed their opinions on the issue, and when reading three articles in particular and also discussing the topic in a lecture I have to agree with them. Leveson just does not get journalism today.

The three articles I particularly look at were: Leveson report ignores the impact of the internet – The Guardian, The Leveson inquiry is irrelevant to 21st – century journalism – The Guardian and Why Leveson Doesn’t ‘Get’ Journalism and Cannot See the Wood for Dead Trees – The Huffington Post UK.

All three articles discuss the issues that have arisen from Leveson’s lack of mentioning the internet to a great extent.

“Not that you’d know it from Leveson’s report. The word “internet” gets a few hundred mentions among its million words, but he never manages to lay a finger on the colossal change that’s happening.” (Charles Arthur, The Guardian, 2012)

Journalism is moving on and developing, anyone ignorant enough to think journalism is going to remain in print is beyond help. The distribution of news impacts homes and people a lot more online than it does in print.

“When more that half the populate has a smartphone, and about 90% has a computer, you don’t have to hang around for a printed paper any more. Print has its charms, but so did Nokia’s old phone. Much good it did them. Disruption waits for no man, woman or business model.” (Charles Arthur, The Guardian, 2012)

When Arthur mentions the change in mobile phones, he is good to show the public the immense change in one small object that has dramatically developed over a course of five years. (There is an excellent video demonstration of this from the Guardian Mobile Summit). With the change in a particular object that can instantly-message, tweet, take video footage, capture imagery and then distribute this through a simple app so the world can see, it has revolutionised not only journalism but communication in general.

Now, heading back to the Leveson Inquiry and Report, when talking about these particular changes in journalism, you just can comprehend why on earth Lord Justice Leveson did not touch on new online journalism that causes unethical messages and news out to a bigger audience than in print. I am just puzzled.

James Alan Anslow, Huffington Post UK, talks about two particular failings in the report:

“In many ways the Leveson report is an impressive piece of work; it is a detailed, political and expedient response to an absurdly amorphous and poorly considered brief. But at its heart are two showstopping misjudgements: two ignored elephants in the newsroom.” (Anslow, Huffington Post, 2012).

These ‘two ignored elephants in the newsroom’ are:

  1. The Internet (as mentioned) 
  2. Nature of journalistic inquiry and presentation

“Thanks to the internet the public now has many more ways of expressing its approval of, or disgust at, journalistic methods: ways of healthily manifesting the “wisdom of the crowd”.” (Anslow, Huffington Post, 2012)

Emily Bell, from The Guardian, also mentions these ‘elephants in the newsroom’. What I found interesting in her article is a passage she included:

“There is an interesting passage in the evidence given to Leveson by lawyer Graham Shear, who describes the difficulty of controlling rumour and innuendo online. Leveson asks him if he has spoken to “internet service providers”. Shear says he has, but that as Google has no servers in the UK “you seek to persuade them”. Twitter he says “Is more difficult”. So effectively the two most powerful platforms for news (and gossip) dissemination in the work are already outside jurisdiction. In the exchange between Shear and Leveson, the web of social media is described as “an extension” of existing media. This is not true now and cannot be true in the future.” (Emily Bell, The Guardian, 2012)

I do not know exactly how Leveson would have included the scope of the internet into his report, however it is an important factor of journalism now and to be honest it should have not been left. His report is pretty much irrelevant in this day of age and it was released last week.

“None of this is to say that those who are violated by intrusion should not have suitable redress, or that who operates outside the law should necessarily be surprised if they are arrested. But it ought to draw attention to the fact that we are entering an age where the ethics of intrusion in the public interest are about to enter a new phase.” (Emily Bell, The Guardian, 2012)

How do you feel about the subject? Let me know.

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Posted on December 5, 2012, in Online Revolution and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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