Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens - Do they mean us?

I'm telling you right off the bat - I'm no trained journalist. If you are, then look away now - then again, look back, as the updated version of The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Understand has an extra Chapter called, The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens. 

edit: 14 Sep 2014 as there's a new version of the book available dated April, 2014, (see amazon).

April 2014 with red banner
This post's all about how People are now empowered to become players in the news game like never before. This means, they have the opportunity to form new relationships with journalists and be a part of the news process. For example in years gone by, a print newspaper was available to read. That reader had no part in shaping what was on that page. Now you do - this is where the responsibility of the Citizen starts to take shape.

So, what does this mean to the people of Kenilworth and Warwickshire? It's all about what we expect from our news organisations and what we should do if we believe we aren't getting it. In the beginning, so I'm told, there was a journalist's bill of responsibilities (The Elements of Journalism) - now there's a citizen's bill of rights.

It works like this. Receive some news from print, web, radio or TV. Compare it against some ideas and values: whether it was truthful, loyal to the people, independent and monitors power correctly. One up to date method is to see if the news provider can interact with people in may public channels (phone, letters, email, social media like twitter, comments on a website or live discussions). It's amazing to think some news people do not attend public meetings any more. The people should now expect to add content themselves, turn up to events and be part of that discussion.

And lastly, comes proportionality and engagement which can be explained as news people reporting the significant parts of a story, in the proportion that matters most in the people's lives. Quite a tall order to get right.  

Further Reading: For an example of how the public contributed on 7 July 2005, see Citizen Journalism and the BBC by Richard Sambrook, ‘…when major events occur, the public can offer us as much new information as we are able to broadcast to them. From now on, news coverage is a partnership.’

The Elements of Journalism
  • Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
  • Its first loyalty is to citizens.
  • Its essence is a discipline of verification.
  • Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  • It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  • It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  • It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
  • It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
  • Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
Footnote: As usual, I welcome any comments, especially on this post. The area of effective news gathering fascinates me. So, which ever side of the news desk you're from, get in touch. Be as much a part of this post as I am.

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