The recent “misremembering” scandal with NBC anchor Brian Williams, who claimed to have been shot down in a helicopter while he covered the invasion of Iraq in 2003, is symptomatic of the skewed journalistic ethics that have resulted in a deep distrust of media. During the latest Confidence in Institutions survey conducted by Gallup, confidence in journalists was at an all-time low. But not all journalists are like Williams. Peter Oborne recently took a heroic step by resigning as chief political commentator of the London Telegraph.
Oborne begins his article, Why I have resigned from the Telegraph, with: “The coverage of HSBC in Britain’s Telegraph is a fraud on its readers. If major newspapers allow corporations to influence their content for fear of losing advertising revenue, democracy itself is in peril.”
HSBC is a huge international bank and advertises heavily with the Telegraph. It made world headlines last week as the story circulated about its link with a Swiss subsidiary that concealed assets, enabling rich clients to avoid taxes. Oborne contends that while other media pounced on the story, “You needed a microscope to find the Telegraph coverage.” He says his former paper only seemed to become interested when there were questions “about the tax affairs of people connected to the Labour party.”
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This is merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. Oborne’s article mentions other examples of newsworthiness becoming subservient to advertisers.
The editorial environment which Oborne describes is not unique to the Telegraph. You’ll find it in newspaper, television, and radio newsrooms around the world to a greater or lesser extent. But few are willing to challenge it. Thank you, Peter Oborne, for having the integrity to value your journalistic principles above your paycheck. You’ve made the world a little safer for democracy.
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