Standing up for journalism


Although online storytelling mediums offer innovative ways to deliver content, there is a widening dearth of quality of journalism being done across Europe, said panellists at the Brussels edition of the Europe-wide effort, Stand Up For Journalism Day.

And that’s because publishers and editors oversee their newsgathering operations with only profit margins and the bottom line in mind, the panellists said. Rare is the news outlet investing in quality imagereporting or investigative journalism. The shrinking of newsgathering staff by way of layoffs, buyouts and attrition is rampant. Gaps are filled by a greater reliance on free labour from students or recent graduates doing internships.

“This is the time to be investing in quality journalism. Instead it’s being cut,” said Aiden White, general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists.

White, who worked for The Guardian before becoming general secretary in 1987, moderated the Brussels discussion for the IFJ, which has about 500,000 members in more than 100 countries.

It designated 5 November as a day for dialogue about the crises facing journalism, a chance to bring up the manner in which so much cost-cutting is inhibiting the ability of journalists to do quality work.

Whether the day’s events will effect any sort of change will be hard to measure. But there was participation in various countries, including England, the Netherlands, Ireland and Paris.

Back in Brussels, White emphasised the day not as a confrontation, but as a starting point for European journalists to ask their employees for the resources to do better work.

“I think it is at this time important to reaffirm the role of journalists as watchdogs of democracy,” fellow panellist Lorenzo Consoli, the president of the International Press Association in Brussels, said.

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, visited the meeting to speak about ethics and human rights issues associated with journalism.