New owners, old necessities

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Great newspapers need time to evolve. Many decades passed before papers including the Times, the Guardian and the Mail became trusted organs, charged by their readers to keep an eye on those in power.

Their opinions you might disregard but their repute for truth were unquestioned. It took only a few years of unprincipled ownership to sour those reputations.

So it was for the Washington Post.

Under Ben Bradlee, blessed as he was with a rogue in the White House and two righteous reporters, the Post was read by everyone in Washington because it delivered truth and fair comment day after day.

It wasn’t brought to its knees by poor reporting or editing, but by endless financial troubles. The Post is no singular example of the fact that great journalism and readers simply aren’t enough to keep a newspaper going.

In new owner Jeff Bezos, the scuttlebutt suggests, the Post has acquired an owner who understands that the business is no more complicated than generating outstanding content and delivering it to readers who are happy to pay for it.

Media-smart, internet-savvy and exceedingly rich, perhaps he can make the Post great again. We need proper journalism. We need it to protect us from Mugabes and freely elected despots.

In the excitement of Leveson, Hugh Grant & Co forgot that the role of news journalists is to question those who think they can do whatever they want without check or balance. What Grant has gained may end up costing the rest of us a lot more than his 15 minutes of shame.

What we need isn’t Leveson, it’s reporters like Helen Thomas back where they belong: Sticking sharp pointed pens into monstrous political and commercial egos. For that, we need strong, powerful newspapers owned by proprietors who know where they must stand when it comes to making choices between right and wrong; between making a buck and making history.

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“Before we all sink into a slough of digital dystopian despair, it might be worth considering this: is this a sign of the strength, not weakness, of revelatory journalism in the digital age?”


Charlie Beckett, director of POLIS at the London School of Economics, reacts to news that the UK government forced the Guardian into destroying hard drives that contained information leaked by Edward Snowden.


(Source: POLIS)

 

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