Publishers who think unedited journalism will help them out of the crisis overwhelming the newspaper industry in parts of the industrialised world are in danger of destroying the scope for ethical journalism, warns the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today on the eve of widespread protests across Europe over falling social and professional standards in media.
Earlier this week David Montgomery, Chief executive of European newspaper network Mecom which owns around 200 newspapers in five countries, advocated a new way of working involving reporters using new technologies to put their reports instantly onto the page without prior editing.
“A long-term vision of journalism without a mediating process of reflection and editing will lower standards, put journalists out of work, and increase the lawyers’ bills facing media,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
White said that Montgomery, the former head of the British Daily Mirror group, should think again about downgrading the role of desk editors and sub-editors in the newspaper business, a plan he outlined at a speech in London this week.
“Journalists are not living in a comfort zone of indifference and complacency,” said White. “We welcome change and we embrace the challenges ahead, but we insist that the future of journalism depends upon strengthening the ethical base of our work.”
The IFJ says that plans to eliminate sub-editing may save money on the salary bill, but would turn out to be a false economy.
“So far we have seen attempts to centralise editing in Ireland and New Zealand, which already raises concerns about loss of contact with local news media, but the elimination of editing altogether of journalists’ work will have a potentially disastrous impact on quality and lower public confidence, adding to the current decline,” said White.
The IFJ and its European section, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), is calling for more dialogue with employers like Mecom, a company with a combined turnover of £1.2bn, to confront the current industry crisis of falling circulation.
“There are answers and we can find them together,” said White, who earlier this year signed a social dialogue agreement with the WAZ media group in Germany. “But we must all be committed to building confidence in reliable, quality and professional journalism.”
On Monday the EFJ is holding a one-day protest across Europe – Stand up for Journalism! – which will involve thousands of journalists in more than 20 countries taking co-ordinated action to raise the alarm over the impact on jobs and journalism of the current crisis in European media.
For more information contact the IFJ at 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.