The News Corp saga involving (a) the much-contested bid for control of BSkyB, (b) the sacking for reasons of sexism of key sports presenters on Sky, (c) the social canoodling of David Cameron with Rebekkah Wade and James Murdoch during the Christmas holidays, (d) the unravelling of the phone-hacking habits at the News of the World (but clearly not a monopoly practice by News Corp), and (e) the arrival in the UK of Rupert Murdoch to sort out the mess, have been too easy a target for comment in the last few weeks. Other commentators have said what needs to be said and anyone with half a brain is left to draw their own conclusions.

Andreas Whittam-Smith summarised it in his scathing critique in the Independent.

It would also be too easy to shoot arrows at the moral inconsistencies of the self-righteous Daily Mail – too much like shooting fish in a barrel. Yet one blogger has pulled it together in relation to the bizarre one-man organisation Christian Voice – which is a predictable shriek rather than a voice and not noticably Christian or representative of the Christian Church. ‘A Christian Voice’ would be a little more accurate, but this doesn’t stop the press from quoting the man behind the title, Stephen Green, or consulting him as if he represented anyone other than himself.

When will journalists and media researchers drop Christian Voice from their contacts list on the grounds hinted at in the description above?

Taking on the Murdochs is not a bsuiness for the fainthearted. Having a government in bed with James or Rupert is dangerous for more than democracy – although the current government seems to be carrying on a tradition begun earlier. Taking seriously much (but not all) press comment on religion in general or Christianity in particular is worryingly naive. It is like accepting that the fulminations of Christian Voice are either Christian or needing a voice.

There are informed exceptions (notably Ruth Gledhill and correspondents from the Guardian and Independent in particular) – although the speed (or judgement) and the need (for speedy stories) means that even they get it spectacularly wrong sometimes (in the same way I and the Church sometimes cause them great frustration). But, the reading/viewing public needs to be better educated in how to read/see what is reported and ask fundamental questions about what distinguishes informed reality from the rubbish.

Good journalism identifies the questions to be asked if reality is to be judged. It is not simply about telling a particular story to back a particular narrative in a way that closes down the questions and purports to deliver a definitive judgement.

A good society and a good democracy demand good journalism based on good research and a good understanding of the subject matter with informed comment from people who can be relied upon to actually represent the views of the community they purport to represent. Good journalism needs to be supported and encouraged – and the consumers need to learn to discriminate.

Steve Richards concludes:

This is a story about journalists losing control. The response to MPs’ losing control was the introduction of an almost comically tough external regulator. In this case I doubt if much will change. Some journalists and newspaper empires are more powerful than puny elected representatives.

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