The Tuppenceworth Paper Round (a slight return)

Oh good grief, Hendrix is probably spinning in his grave…

Simon over at Tuppenceworth has announced he’s been invited to take part in Leviathan this Thursday. This is a nice ‘attaboy’ for the gang at Tuppenceworth from David McWilliams et al. Or else it is a trap given the number of journos who’ll be in the room.

Just in case it is a trap, I thought I’d trundle out the Journo Code of Practice – the Code of Conduct of the NUJ – for Simon to recite in the manner of Indiana Jones in “Indy and James Bond save the world“ or whatever that movie was called.

The full code of conduct can be found HERE. For the purposes of this post, I’ll only focus on the salient points…

From the Code of Conduct:

2.) A journalist shall at all times defend the principle of the freedom of the press and other media in relation to the collection of information and the expression of comment and criticism. He/she shall strive to eliminate distortion, news suppression and censorship.

The reaction of some journalists to the Paper Round (ie ‘whatwouldbloggersknow’) is contrary to the spirit if not the letter of this section of the NUJ code of conduct. The Bloggers in the Paper Round were operating in another medium (not print or traditional broadcast) but they were open about how they collected their information and presented fact-based criticisms based on what they found, as well as inviting comment and a right to reply. Comments on the professionalism of bloggers vs that of professional journalists missed the point entirely – a better response more in keeping with the Code of Conduct might have been to get involved, help refine the methodology and publicise the process.

The fact that much of what the Paper Round found given the reliance of some newspapers on advertorial or reguritated press releases could viewed as “distortion” or “news suppression” is worthy of mention. However, point number 9 of the Code of Conduct smacks one more blatantly between the eyes, given the prevalance of advertorial:

9.) A journalist shall not lend himself/herself to the distortion or suppression of the truth because of advertising or other considerations.

Given the findings of the Paper Round in relation to Opinion pieces masquerading as ‘real news’, imagine my surprise when I found the following in the NUJ Code of Conduct:

3.) A journalist shall strive to ensure that the information he/she disseminates is fair and accurate, avoid the expression of comment and conjecture as established fact and falsification by distortion, selection or misrepresentation.

Based on my reading of the Code of Conduct (and I am just an ignorant blogger), the Tuppenceworth Paper Round raise some interesting questions about the state of Irish journalism and print media in particular. I am heartened that it would seem that the Tuppenceworth approach is actually in alignment with the spirit of the NUJ code of conduct in that they published facts and provided a right of reply.

Those in print media who interpreted the Paper Round as an attack on journalists by bloggers missed the point. Those who attacked bloggers, or the paper round, in print may have acted in breach of their own code of conduct.

More worryingly for me is the question of, if journalists and print media aren’t producing a ‘product’ for the public (the customer) or one that conforms to their own Union’s code of conduct just who is the piper calling the tune?

Perhaps in 2007 the NUJ might collaborate with Tupp’worth to devise a more structured methodology for measuring standards in Irish journalism and the quality of what is actually printed in Irish print media against both the expectation of the consumer (Seamus Q Newspaperreader) and the NUJ Code of Conduct.

In the meantime, I hope that Simon over at Tupp’worth makes use of the Code of Conduct if he is ambushed. 

And as for the DOB-log… from January I’ll be adopting the NUJ Code of Conduct for all posts and comments on this blog. If it’s good enough for the journos, it’s good enough for a humble blogger like me.