June 7, 2013

Mike Jempson: “All points of view can be heard and examined”

After first young journalists trainings of “Media 4 change” we was talking with journalism expert Mike Jempson. He is working with media issues all around the world. Now we are sharing with you his ideas about media diversity and stereotypes in journalists work.

Hate speech and journalism

MikeMost journalists at some stage in their career will find themselves in contact with a bigot, a religious zealot or a racist who may be an ordinary member of the public or have a position of influence – like a politician or a community or religious leader. Whether or not they agree with the views being expressed, should they report what such people say? It is not our job as journalists tell people what they should and should not believe, but it is our job to challenge people, especially if they are saying things which are inaccurate or which are not based on clear evidence. By hate speech I mean remarks which show unreasonable hostility to a person or group, or which might be considered to incite hatred or violence against a person or group.

Challenging stereotypes in media

Unless your publication/programme has an agreed policy of ‘no platform for racists/fascists/etc’ it is your duty as a journalist to report accurately what people say. We need to know that unpleasant ideas are circulating, but it is vital to check any claims, challenge stereotypes, and make sure that alternative evidence and points of view are expressed. If a racist or bigot is given a platform, our job is to be properly prepared and to challenge them and expose their ignorance and hatred.

Journalists and journalism outlets that PROMOTE hatred of any kind should be challenged, – not only are they being unethical, and possibly breaking local laws, they also taint all journalists with their bigotry, putting them all at risk.

To some extent journalists tend to rely on stereotypes, since they provide a form of shorthand when trying to communicate with a broad range of public, Not all stereotypes are negative; however they can be dangerous and libelous. Our role is to help people understand the world around them, so we should look into popular stereotypes and seek to dispel myths and lies. Journalists may harbor personal prejudices, but these they should leave outside the door. The media is not a platform for their prejudices, it is a forum in which all points of view can be heard and examined.

Media diversity around the world

Most media outlets everywhere have a problem with ‘diversity’, not least because few have newsrooms ‘representative’ of the communities they serve. The extent to which the issue is tackled varies from country to country and it would be hard to categories it in the way you request. Certainly some of the CEE countries find it difficult to tackle, since many antipathies have been hidden for so long, or are regarded as socially acceptable. That makes it all the more important to for independent journalists to bring the hidden out into open view. – and especially to give voice to those who have been kept silent for so long. Think about the voices of Roma, or of ‘out’ Lesbians and gays, or of religious minorities. When human stories are heard and seen it makes it much more difficult to sustain ill-conceived prejudices. We may not change people’s minds, but we can try to open them.

Bristols example of diversity in media

I edit an annual magazine called Bristol Globe <http://www.cityofsanctuary.org/bristol/globe> which celebrates the diversity in what is a maritime city – it has built its wealth on international trade (including the slave trade) and with two universities and several major commercial sectors – aerospace and the financial services it continues to rely upon international markets. Unsurprisingly it has a multicultural population and a vibrant cultural scene; it also has a significant health and welfare sector concerned with mental health and intellectual disabilities. Unfortunately parts of the city are somewhat ghettoized, so communities do not always mix. The magazine focuses on the rich seam of human stories the city’s history and social structure has to offer. It is also a self-declared ‘City of Sanctuary’ welcoming refugees from around the word. The magazine tried to introduced newcomers to the culture of the city, and tell Bristolians about the newcomers and their cultures. In that way we hope it will contribute to social cohesion and greater understanding.

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