The key points — as distilled by BBC News — of the Report of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press:
New self-regulation body recommended — Independent of serving editors, government and business — No widespread corruption of police by the press found — Politicians and press have been too close — Press behaviour, at times, has been ‘outrageous’.
What kind of regulation? (‘I cannot, and will not, recommend another last chance saloon for the press’ — Lord Justice Leveson)
‘An independent regulatory body for the press should be established. It should take an active role in promoting high standards, including having the power to investigate serious breaches and sanction newspapers. The new body should be backed by legislation designed to assess whether it is doing its job properly. The legislation would enshrine, for the first time, a legal duty on the government to protect the freedom of the press. An arbitration system should be created through which people who say they have been victims of the press can seek redress without having to go through the courts. Newspapers that refuse to join the new body could face direct regulation by media watchdog Ofcom. The body should be independent of current journalists, the government and commercial concerns, and not include any serving editors, government members or MPs. The body should consider encouraging the press to be as transparent as possible in relation to sources for its stories, if the information is in the public domain. A whistle-blowing hotline should be established for journalists who feel under pressure to do unethical things.’
A 130-page report released as part of the Columbia Journalism School’s Centennial argues that ‘journalism’s future is now’. It proceeds from ‘five core beliefs’ or propositions: (1) ‘journalism matters’; (2) ‘good journalism has always been subsidised’; (3) ‘the internet wrecks advertising subsidy’; (4) ‘restructuring is, therefore, a forced move’; and (5) ‘there are many opportunities for doing good work in new ways’.
‘”Post-Industrial Journalism: Adapting to the Present,” co-authored by Emily Bell http://www.journalism.columbia.edu/profile/304-emily-bell/10, Columbia Journalism professor and director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism http://towcenter.org/ [and former director of digital content for Guardian News and Media]; Clay Shirky http://www.shirky.com/, NYU professor; and C.W. Anderson http://www.cwanderson.org/, assistant professor, College of Staten Island (CUNY), provides recommendations for how news organizations can survive and thrive in the digital landscape. ‘”It became clear to us very early in our research that there’s no such thing as the news industry anymore,” said Bell. “Journalism has fragmented so quickly in terms of practice, skills, process, revenue and even output, that newsrooms are very different places from the factories of information they were only a few years ago. It feels like the right time to have a broad discussion, not about business models…but about what skills, structures and systems give us the best chance of creating good journalism. We want this report to be a provocation in that conversation.”’
The Columbia Centennial Report is best read along with a challenging broad-brush essay of some theoretical significance by Paul Starr, the Princeton sociologist, Pulitzer-winning historian, and author of ‘Creation of the Media’ (2005), published in the International Journal of Press/Politics (2012). The essay argues that ‘the digital revolution has been good for freedom of expression because it has increased the diversity of voices in the public sphere’; that ‘the digital revolution has been good for freedom of information because it has made government documents and data directly accessible to more people and has fostered a culture that demands transparency from powerful institutions’; ‘but that the digital revolution has both revitalized and weakened freedom of the press’. Focussing on the plight of freedom of the press in ‘post-industrial democracies’, especially the United States and parts of Europe where newspaper employment has sharply declined, Starr outlines and analyses an unforeseen crisis in which ‘the public would fragment, the audience for news would shrink, advertisers would be able to reach their markets without sponsoring news, and the traditional commercial basis for financing journalism would be shattered.’
‘Steven Spielberg began by hiring the best playwright in the country…Tony Kushner, immersing himself in the politics and language of the period, delivered a five-hundred page script, which was unfilmable except as a TV mini-series. At some point, when Kushner was in his car, Spielberg called, and said something like, “The best part of your script is the eighty pages devoted to passing the Thirteenth Amendment. Let’s make the whole movie about that”…“Momentous” is a strange word to use about any movie. The medium is usually at its best when it’s casually intense, slangy rather than grand…Great movies [usually]…stick to their own peculiar intrigues and suggest larger meanings only through implication—that’s the wise strategy, as any shrewd producer would tell you. But in “Lincoln,” Spielberg and Kushner marched straight down the center of national memory, the moment of glory and anguish, and they got it right.’
Markandey Katju, retired Supreme Court of India judge and Chairman of the Press Council of India, was the first national public figure of stature to speak up in a principled way on what the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray really stood for. He also followed up immediately with the Maharashtra Chief Minister on an outrageous attack on free speech:
I am forwarding an email I have received stating that a woman in Maharashtra has been arrested for protesting on Facebook against the shut down in Mumbai on the occasion of the death of Mr. Bal Thackeray. It is alleged that she has been arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
To my mind it is absurd to say that protesting against a bandh hurts religious sentiments. Under Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution freedom of speech is a guaranteed fundamental right . We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship. In fact this arrest itself appears to be a criminal act since under sections 341 and 342 it is a crime to wrongfully arrest or wrongfully confine someone who has committed no crime.
Hence if the facts reported are correct, I request you to immediately order the suspension, arrest, chargesheeting and criminal prosecution of the police personnel (however high they may be) who ordered as well as implemented the arrest of that woman, failing which I will deem it that you as Chief Minister are unable to run the state in a democratic manner as envisaged by the Constitution to which you have taken oath, and then the legal consequences will follow.
You have not replied to my email but only forwarded it to someone called Amitabh Rajan, whom I do not know, and who has not had the courtesy to respond to me. Please realize that the matter is much too serious to be taken in this cavalier manner, because the principle of liberty is at stake.The entire nation wants to know what action you have taken. I would therefore request you to immediately let me know what you are doing in this matter.
Are we living in a democracy or not ? How can a person be arrested for objecting to the shutdown in Mumbai on Thackeray’s death ? Article 21 of the Constitution, to uphold which you have taken an oath, states that no one can be deprived of his life or liberty except in accordance with law. Does Article 21 not exist in Maharashtra ? Does freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) also not exist in your state ?
Please realize that silence is not an option for you in the matter. The entire nation is furious at this apparently illegal arrest. Therefore I once again request you to tell me, and through me the entire nation, why this arrest of a woman was made in Mumbai just for putting up an apparently innocuous material on the Facebook, and what action you have taken against the delinquent policemen and others involved in this high handedness and blatant misuse of state machinery.
4. From: Markandey Katju
Dear Chief Minister,
Thank you for reply. Please ensure that law and order is maintained in your state and the hooligan elements are not allowed to terrorize the people.
Note: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s reply is attached as a pdf file.
‘One man and his mathematical model had bested an entire political class of journalists, spin doctors, hacks and commentators…The poker player and baseball nerd turned political forecaster won fame after predicting the result of the US election with uncanny accuracy. And as his star rises so too does that of a whole new generation of “quants” leading the digital revolution.’
— I own over 200 corporations in the United States and those corporations are people too. Had we gotten to vote only once for every corporation that we own, the results of this election would be quite different. —
‘Elected in 2009, Mujica spent the 1960s and 1970s as part of the Uruguayan guerrilla Tupamaros, a leftist armed group inspired by the Cuban revolution. He was shot six times and spent 14 years in jail. Most of his detention was spent in harsh conditions and isolation, until he was freed in 1985 when Uruguay returned to democracy. Those years in jail, Mujica says, helped shape his outlook on life. “I’m called ‘the poorest president’, but I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more,” he says. This is a matter of freedom. If you don’t have many possessions then you don’t need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself,” he says. “I may appear to be an eccentric old man… But this is a free choice.”‘
‘Until now, Congress has not stood in the way of the expanding surveillance, mainly because it was justified as part of the effort to prevent another 9/11. But the Petraeus case shows that among the people who have the most to lose from unchecked surveillance are the people who thought they would benefit from it—government elites who allocate the funding and make the laws and operate the bureaucracy of surveillance. Perhaps they will start worrying a bit more about becoming the next Petraeus or Bork. Our legislators, who are not all angels, now have real skin in the game, so to speak.’
‘Was Petraeus Borked?’, Peter Maas, ProPublica, co-published with New Yorker (two links to the same article):
‘Go see this movie…[It] places slavery at the center of the story, emphatically countering the revisionist tendency to see some other, more abstract thing — states’ rights, Southern culture, industrial capitalism — as the real cause of the Civil War…Take your children, even though they may occasionally be confused or fidgety. Boredom and confusion are also part of democracy, after all. “Lincoln” is a rough and noble democratic masterpiece…’
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had an unusual and complicated investigative challenge on its hands, involving security, privacy, and disclosure issues. A look at how the agency went about it, resulting in the CIA chief’s resignation:
A careful evaluation by FiveThirtyEight of two dozen polls conducted in the final three weeks of the US presidential race reveals that polls reaching a random sample of likely voters online or by mobile telephone fared best. The polling firm TIPP and Google Consumer Surveys were top of the charts and, interestingly, Gallup, with its big statistical bias towards Republicans, fared worst of all (now ‘three poor elections in a row’). ‘In my view,’ comments Nate Silver, ‘there will always be an important place for high-quality telephone polls, such as those conducted by The New York Times and other major news organizations, which make an effort to reach as representative a sample of voters as possible and which place calls to cellphones. And there may be an increasing role for online polls, which can have an easier time reaching some of the voters, especially younger Americans, that telephone polls are prone to miss…Perhaps it won’t be long before Google, not Gallup, is the most trusted name in polling.’
‘First, I was relieved. Romney had failed…Then I watched Obama’s victory speech, and what I felt was something other than relief…What struck me about Obama’s “soaring rhetoric” was…how heavily it leaned on the rhetoric of American exceptionalism. Dodging specifics, mixing sentimental anecdotes with sweeping platitudes, Obama invoked a special American destiny, unique among nations…The ideology of American exceptionalism has always been about consolidating national unity – not so much against foreign foes as against domestic division, especially class division.’