The gala will raise money to support The Journalism Foundation’s global projects, including the establishment of a new college of journalism in Tunisia, and also a programme to train young journalists in South Sudan.
In the build up to the event, we are compiling the views of figures from across the media spectrum on journalism today and in the future.
The series begins with British politician Lord Ashdown.
What does good journalism mean to you?
An old editor of mine said that the job of newspapers was to expose. I am not interested in exposing private lives. Good journalism should be about exposing the truth. It may be about the true intentions of politicians; about commercial scandals; or about what is really happening on the ground either in Britain or in countries overseas. It should aid democracy.
What are the dangers of press censorship?
Governments should be removed from any position of power over the press. The press should answer to the law and to any complaints system which protects the public. They should not answer to governments – and the best position is when there is clear water between the media and the politicians.
Is this an important time for journalism? If so, how?
It is a crucial time for journalism – particularly newspaper journalism. The internet and changing habits have effected all newspaper circulations – national and regional – and there is a struggle to survive. The effect outside London is particularly dire and one result is that councils are not under the scrutiny they once were. The search is for an economic model that will enable newspapers to continue.
What kind of journalism needs to be championed and supported now?
The role of the media is to hold governments, local authorities, and business to account. Often this will require substantial resources. It is this kind of journalism that needs support. We do not want newspapers that simply rewrite press releases and use agency copy.
How is the practice of journalism changing? What are the positives and negatives of these changes?
There are many more features and many more opinion pieces in newspapers than there were 20 or 30 years before. Partly this is the effect of the competition of the internet and television. They can be first with the news. But there is still a need for good reporting and analysis of what is happening over the world. One of the retrograde steps has been the reduction in foreign correspondents – obviously for financial reasons. One of the plus points is that newspapers are much more accessible than they once were – much more attractive. I started work on a newspaper which had advertisements all over its front page!
Do you have worries about the future of journalism?
I have worries certainly. Newspapers are under particular threat. Nevertheless there is still an enormous demand for good journalism. Television provides some excellent reports and reporters – and so too does radio. Perhaps we should be encouraged by the sturdiness of radio which a few years ago was being written off as outdated. Today it provides some of the best journalism of all. It is far too early to write off the press.
To read more about The Journalism Foundation’s gala fundraiser click here
For the rest in the series, click here.