Lots of journalists and politicians have had their say about the bad state of the British tabloid press after the phone hacking scandal that closed down the News of the World, the country’s biggest selling newspaper. But, until a conference held on Saturday, June 8, nobody had given the very public the government’s Leveson Inquiry into press standards was all about the opportunity to hear from leading journalists on the subject and discuss solutions with them.
After Leveson, is Citizen Journalism the Answer? at the London College of Communication, Elephant and Castle, London, was hosted by the Citizen journalism Educational Trust and The-Latest.Com, Britain’s first dedicated citizen journalism news portal, and built on the success of their Media and the Riots conference that brought young people from riot affected areas and journalists face to face. The Leveson Inquiry accepted the Media and the Riots – A call for action conference report as evidence.
As we know from the shocking images, citizen journalism trumped big media when video cameras on phones captured the only recordings of the horrific scenes at the Woolwich murder of soldier Lee Rigby so it’s currently at the fore of the debate about news coverage.
Top bloggers, campaigners for greater press regulation, those opposed to it, citizen journalists, scholars, trade unionists, students and members of the public will be at the one-day conference. Speakers include Karin Askham, Media School Dean at the London College of Communication, Laurie Penny, the popular New Statesman columnist, blogger and author, Angela Phillips, of EastLondonLines and Goldsmiths College, Dr Evan Harris, associate director of Hacked Off, the campaign that’s successfully championed the cause of the victims of phone hacking, James Anslow, an ex-News of the World and Sun production journalist, who mounted a brave defence of tabloid newspapers, Althea Grant, a
Tottenham community activist and lawyer and Marc Wadsworth, the editor of The-Latest.Com.
In the wake of the outcry from Fleet Street’s finest about them not wanting to be regulated by law, the debate has turned to online news and comment. Will bloggers and sites like our, face draconian fines if lawyers are set loose on them? Or, should they be excluded from new regulation?
After the 2011 summer riots, some police and politicians, aware that young people share a lot of news using social media, urged the closing down of internet services including Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger, during times of civil unrest. Yet the post Leveson Inquiry debate seemed to have by-passed discussion that the way forward might not be with “big media”, whose circulations are tumbling, but with alternative reporting by the people for the people in the shape of citizen journalism.
Could newspapers recapture the vast space now occupied by a growing army of online bloggers and other members of the public publishing news, views and images unhindered by the demands of rich, powerful and partisan proprietors whose biased publications support big business and the Tories and rubbish trade unions and the Labour Party? Then again, maybe “big media” need not fear citizen journalism because it was a passing fad unable to uphold professional standards in an unaccountable wild west that is the World Wide Web.
These important questions and more were discussed in a lively debate between key figures in the news media industry and the public that has already started on Twitter (hashtag #afterleveson). You can still “like” the conference on Facebook.
* See this must-read preview piece about the conference by Britain’s foremost media commentator Roy Greenslade.