Journalism Students Grill Panel of Experts

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Journalism students at the University of Worcester grilled a panel of experts during a gritty discussion around media ethics and privacy.

Students questioned the panel, which included the Editor of the Worcester News, a member of the former Press Complaints Commission and a media regulation expert, about whether the media is regulated enough.

There was an overwhelming feeling that the culture in newsrooms had improved significantly and that practices, confined to some national tabloids, had been curtailed.

Peter John, Editor of the Worcester News, made it clear that the regional press had not been involved in the phone hacking scandal, but now faced greater regulation as a consequence.

The new Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), that replaced the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), had made it more labour intensive to respond to complaints, he said.

But he felt the new system was better than the one proposed by Lord Leveson, which he said opened the door to state intervention and erosion in freedom of expression.

He warned that the number of laws and regulations affecting the media were already great and that we are “stumbling towards a secret society.”

The issue of ethics was complex and a constant challenge with decisions on whether or not to publish often depending on whether they were ‘in the public interest’.

Alison Hastings, a former editor and PCC member, said that the newsroom culture had changed since Leveson with the Editors’ Code of Conduct being adhered to much more.

Christine Challand, University of Worcester Journalism lecturer and freelancer for the Mail on Sunday, outlined ways in which her job had changed, explaining “the kiss and tell is dead now”.

She said it was important that members of the public continued to contact papers with tip-offs when they felt bad things were happening behind closed doors.

Media regulation expert John Mair, stressed the need for journalists to “abide by the law and to stick to public interest as a defence”.

But he said IPSO was flawed as not all of the national newspapers had signed up to it.

Claire Wolfe, Subject Leader in Journalism, who chaired the event, said: “The students had some great questions and stimulated a really interesting debate.

“They also received some excellent advice on how to respond effectively if asked to do something they felt was unethical and were reminded of what a “competitive, adrenalin-driven, exciting career choice journalism is.”