Is Journalistic Objectivity Really Possible in British Society?
Introduction to Journalism End of Module Assessment Module leader Prof. Frank MacMahon Student: Fabio Scarpello Student number: 10182824 Report title: Is Journalistic objectivity really possible in British society. | |Notes: Words 2,275 | |Pages nine | |(“ … “)= Reference to article in bibliography |
Introduction Objectivity is the standard to which every journalist should aspire. In this report I analyse the coverage of the European Union (EU) summit in Nice held between the 7th and the 11th December 2000. My aim is to underline whether “objectivity” has been achieved. I will focus on The Guardian and The Telegraph, (both replaced by their Sunday newspapers on the 10th) and, to a lesser extent, on The Sun. My scrutiny will start the 8th and continue for five days. The report will look at: – Coverage – Prominence – Use of pictures – Editorial
To gain an independent view of the issues discussed, I relied on the BBC, (“EU Guidelines”), and kept its indication as my benchmark. Accordingly they are: – Charter of Rights (54 rights for every EU citizen) – Drop of National Vetoes, replaced by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) for most decisions (Blair pledged to maintain six called “red lines” on tax, social security, immigration, treaty amendments, EU budget and border control) – Re-weighting of the Council of Minister vote. Due to its importance and controversy, I included the Rapid Reaction Force (RRF)
Friday 8th Broadsheets give ample coverage to the Summit, with equal prominence. Front-page articles are similar. Headlines are coherent in condemning Chirac while the contents concentrate on the different aspirations for the RRF between France (who advocate operational independence from NATO) and Great Britain (who wants closer co-ordination with NATO). Comments from Government and opposition appear in both. The similitude ends with reports of the pre-summit disturbances. Different is the approach to the Charter.
The Telegraph’s tone is critical, comments however are balanced with Byrne (Irish EU commissioner) who highlights weakness in its draft, and Fontaine (EU Parliament president) who wants it incorporated in European law. The Guardian sees it as a triumph for Britain and voices its optimism with Vaz (European minister) who plays down Tories worries of a European Constitution. The importance of maintaining national vetoes is the main point of the Telegraph’s last article, while The Guardian ends with the gains of widening the EU eastwards.
Editorials reflect the broadsheets different political stance. The Guardian advocates the UK’s advantages in dropping its veto on immigration, while The Telegraph reports on the intention of the Anti-EU party to attack labour at next general election. The Sun coverage is also comprehensive. The tone is more direct (“Blair war on Chirac”), but still covers the RRF (comments from Blair and two conservative ministers), riots and Charter with comment from Jaspin (French PM) who advocates its legal status. The political line is clear in the commentary and in the editorial.
Kavanagh (political commentator) sarcastically highlights the division within the EU leaders. The editorial tone gets almost menacing: it begins with “Tony on Trial” and it ends with “He dares not return home if he gives up any of them” (“red lines”) Saturday 9th Coverage and prominence are again similar with both broadsheets dealing with the RRF in depth. Comments from Cook, Cohen (US defence secretary) and Smith (shadow defence secretary) appear in both. The Telegraph strengths its critics with Pearle (US former politician) who says “this is a catastrophe for NATO” (“Euro force still…. ”) .
The Guardian, in its defence, uses Chirac and Solana (MEP) who states, ”It is not a threat to NATO, we are not trying to make an EU army” (“Chirac gives way…”). Vetoes are mentioned in both and it is interesting the different use of the same picture. In The Guardian it reads, “veto cloning” (page 7) in The Telegraph only “veto” (page 11). The latter could be seen as a warning to Blair against dropping vetoes, whilst it is a protest against human cloning. The Sun coverage is poor with a single article. Scepticism against the RRF is expressed by Kavanagh not convinced of Cook reassurance of its real co-operation with NATO.
Sunday 10th Both Sunday newspapers (Observer and Sunday Telegraph) comprehensively cover the summit with front-page articles and inside page focuses; however the Observer wins the quantity battle. The Telegraph front-page headline sets the trend: “Blair isolated in EU as Nice turns nasty”. Within the article the RRF is not mentioned while the vetoes, Charter and the re-weighting are analysed. Blair isolation is judged a consequence of his attempt to keep the “red lines”. There is also space for the Government intention to give up 17 vetoes in order to streamline the EU decision-making process.
Still in the Telegraph, for the first time, is mentioned a clause in The Charter (article 7) deemed as “further embarrassment to Blair” (“Blair threatens to…”) which gives the EU the power to investigate, censor and recommend a change in the law, to countries considered in breach of fundamental rights. The Charter is further criticised in a separate article for its moral and religious values. Several high rank ecclesiastics define it as “Godless” and “a way to make easier for homosexual couples to adopt children” (“Catholic Bishops say…”).
The problems arisen by the EU re-weighting are seen as a blessing to Blair who, thank to them, hides his difficulties. The Observer front-page headline “British police for Euro army” counterbalances the Telegraph, giving ample coverage to the RRF. The accent shifts, presenting it as a police force rather than an army. The “red lines” feature with a difference angle as well: Sweden is seen as backing Blair on tax and social security, and the PM voices, for the first time, his intention to drop national veto on immigration. Charter and the re-weighting are covered in a re-cap article on page 5. The focuses are different in angle and size.
The Sunday Telegraph devotes a page, covering every issue in a chronological order of discussion (RRF, Charter, veto, re-weighting). Blair isolation is emphasised, and his interpretation of the summit, is ridiculed “Mr Blair can give an interpretation to the British people. That does not mean that the rest of us have to believe it” (Here is a Nice mess”). In this case it is attributed to a diplomat and refers to the Charter, but, according to The Telegraph, it could be applied to every issue. RRF and Charter are presented as carrying a hidden agenda, which will lead to a EU army and a constitution.
Blair handling is considered weak and partially saved by general chaos. Symptomatic is the closing sentence: “It was an unhappy summit for Mr Blair… but he was not alone at Nice there were no winners”. The Observer focus owes its title, ”Europe- the elephant test” to Hague:“If it look like an elephant and sounds like an elephant then, it is an elephant you re dealing with”. It relies on pro-European academics to highlight a new vision of superstate, shaped by globalisation. “European identity is already being shaped by a globalisation of culture as a shared sense of European values».
This cultural aspect seems to be The Observer starting point. Its reasoning builds on with the ineluctability of the process “we live in a world where layers of governance overlap” says Hobsbawm, while Prodi (EU Commission president) stresses “It is the only way our nations can express themselves in a globalised world”. There is not a conclusive definition of superstate; it vaguely states that it is a new entity, different to anything seen before. The report lacks comments from anti-European academics. The editorials do not leave space to misinterpretation.
The Sunday Telegraph titles it “alone again” and labels the Government European politics as naive. The Observer instead gives voice to Palmer (Director of European Policy Centre) who advocates a closer European integration (“Europe not amused…”). Monday 11th The main daily issue is the re-weighting. Prominence is equal but the Guardian gives more coverage. The tone remains the same with the Telegraph portraying the difficulties of reaching a decision, while The Guardian applauds Blair for its success. The respective headlines mirror the core of the articles. “EU leaders scrambles to fix a deal” prints the Telegraph on its front page.
It concentrates on the squabble and difficulty of the re-weighting procedure using quotes from state’s PM. Words as chaos and crises are repeated. Worth noticing, in the same article the concession to Blair for holding to the “red lines”, even if the PM is reported saying that due to Tory pressure “he had no space for manoeuvre”. Inside page articles keep the same tone and issue. A failed appeal to EU leaders by Blair for help in Sierra Leon, makes in print in the Telegraph, while is omitted in The Guardian (“Blair troops…”). “Blair holds on to key vetoes” is The Guardian headline.
In this article the recurrent words are victory and triumph. The report uses a much mellower tone in describing the difficulty encountered. The Guardian coverage, in its entirety is more comprehensive with information on EU Parliament seat relocation and on the planning of the Inter-Governmental Conference of 2004; neither reported in The Telegraph. Both editorials criticise the summit but for opposite reasons. The Guardian claims that a superstate is very far. Nice is judged a failure due to politicians, including Blair, too concerns with their domestic interest (“Naughty Nice”).
The Telegraph says that Nice has failed in its main objective (enlargement) and labels it as a “federalising treaty that has taken giant strides towards closer integration” (“The reality of Nice”). The Telegraph editorial line is mirrored in the “letter to the editor”: Mr Garrod preoccupation that a future European superstate would suffer the fate of Yugoslavia and Soviet Union gets published. The Sun coverage is good but fails in prominence (pages 8 and 9). The leading article (“Fiasco in France”) deals with the difficulties of the re-weighting, blaming Chirac.
An increase in the number of EU commissioners and MEP are reported (overlooked in the broadsheet). A separate article credits Blair for holding on to vetoes. Plaudits to the PM are also mentioned in the editorial, even if it is considered only a won battle in a long war. EU difficulties are the core issue in the commentary (“40 years of Euro…”) in which the lack of popular consent for integration is seen as the main reason of failure. Tuesday 12TH Prominence and coverage is similar with the braoasheet now using the summit as an election’s tool. The Telegraph’s headline “Blair sold us short in Nice” denounces an unsatisfactory outcome.
In it Hague reinforce his point of “major steps towards a EU susperstate” and pledges not to ratify the treaty, if elected. The possibility of a referendum to decide on it is also mentioned in a further article (“Tories would put…”) where comments from Conservatives are only partially balanced by a sentence from Kennedy (LD). QMV and re-weighting are well covered on page 4. Mentioned also are “enhanced co-operation” (possibility for members who want further integration to go ahead) and “demographic bar” (second majority required for decision making in EU council of ministers based on percentage of EU’s population).
Worth noticing that this percentage is reported at 62% by the three newspapers and 74. 6 by the bbcnews. com Charter and RRF are neglected. The Guardian titles “Tories left floundering by EU deal” and looks at the election in buoyant mood. The summit is seen as a Blair victory in a further article (“Blair balancing act …”) in which the use of a picture gives the PM and his aids an almost heroic look. Interesting is the assumption by Blair that it is the Conservatives who are politically isolated in Europe.
Re-weighting and “red lines” are analysed with predominantly pro-European comments. Blair vision of “inter-governmental” Europe (decision making held by a core of nations and not the EU institution) is deemed closer (mentioned also in The Telegraph). The Telegraph’s commentary is even handed (“Blair battle tale…”). Worries of a closer EU integration are balanced with approval of Blair handling of “red lines” and RRF. The Guardian instead goes as far as to regrets Blair for not daring more (“Nice enough”) The Sun uses a picture to effectively illustrate the summit ‘s marathon (page 2).
It criticise Blair presumed guilty of having agreed to a treaty, which gives “more bureaucracy, secrecy and dodgier decision making” (“What Blair has…”). The editorial credits itself as the PM guiding light through the summit, and claims that only its pressure has prevented Blair to agree to further pro-European movements. The summit’s decisions are covered in an easy to read our losses and gain section. Conclusion Impartiality in the UK is demanded of Radio and TV broadcasts. It is enshrined in their codes of conduct and enforced by their respective controlling bodies.
Due impartiality and prominence have to be achieved as a legal requirement (Public Broadcast Act, 1990). There is not such a requirement for newspapers. The National Union Of Journalist solicits journalist “to strive that the information disseminated is fair and accurate” (NUJ code of conduct 29/06/1994), but does not mention any duty to political independence. Furthermore the Press Complaint Commission states that newspapers are free to be partisan (PCC Code of Conduct December 1999) On this basis, it is without surprise that the conclusion of this report is that “objectivity” in the newspapers analysed has not been achieved.
Editorials are clear in their political stance, with articles only seldom contradicting it. Reports are given different spins and angle, which result in biased information. Comments from political figure get different prominence depending on the paper orientation. Worth mentioning is that journalistic objectivity has been further damaged since publishing has been incorporated in a globalised financial world. The system derived from this development is based on oligopoly and cross ownership, which are two more stumbling block for editorial independence. This scenario leaves little space to ethical, idealistic code of conducts.
In supporting my conclusion I would use R. Fowler comments that news is not a natural phenomenon but a product of an industry, and therefore shaped by bureaucratic, economic structures, government and political organisations (Mac Nair B. , 1999, 36). Bibliography The Guardian Friday 8th December 2000 • Black I. , M. White and R. Norton Taylor “Chirac widens split on defence” (Page 1) • Henley J. , “Police injured as street riots greets leaders” (Page 6) • Black I. , “East grows tired of waiting game” (Page 7) • Comment section “Fortress Europe” • Wodlacott M. , “France versus the mighty Americans”
The Telegraph Friday 8th December 2000 • Jones G. , A. Evans-Pritchard “Chirac angers Blair by backing EU army” (Pages 1 and 2) • Evans-Pritchard A. “Don’t mess with our tax veto, Blair tells EU allies” (Page 4) • Jones G. A. Evans-Pritchard “Irish Commissioner says basic rights charter is badly drafted” (Page 4) • La Guarda A. “Tear gas and riots greet Europe leaders” (Page 5) The Sun Friday 8th December 2000 • Kavanagh T. ”Blair has to turn nasty at Nice talks” (Page 1) • Kavanagh T. “Blair war on Chirac” (Pages 8 and 9) • The Sun says section “Tory on trial” (Page 8)
The Guardian Saturday 9th December 2000 • White M. , I. Black “Blair feels heat over EU vetoes” (Pages 1 and 2) • Cole P. “Tale of two Britain and two summits” (Page 6) • Black I. “Chirac gives way in row with Blair over NATO” (Page 7) The Telegraph Saturday 9th December 2000 • Evans-Pritchard A. , G. Jones “Blair deserted by EU allies in veto struggle” (Page 1) • La Guardia A. “Euro force still cause of division” (Page 11) The Sun Saturday 9th December 2000 • Kavanagh T. , P. Gilfeather “Chirac rips up the rule book” (Page 2) • Kavanagh T. “Sounding the retreat Y” (Page 2)
The Observer Sunday 10th December 2000 • Ahmes K. , D. Staunton “British police for Euro army” (Pages 1 and 2) • Ahmed K. , D. Staunton “How it turned nasty at Nice” (Page 5) • Palmer J. “Europe not amused by this French farce” (Page 5) • Beumont P. , D. Staunton and A. Osborn “Europe – the elephant test” (Pages 16 and 17) • Comment section “Europe will never be a superstate” (Page 28) The Sunday Telegraph 10th December 2000 • Murphy J. , J. Coman “Blair isolated in EU as Nice turns nasty” (Pages 1 and 4) • Petre J. “Catholic bishops say EU charter ignores God” (Page 4) • Murphy J. , J.
Coman “Here is a Nice mess” (Page 20) • Comment section “Alone again” • Murphy J. , J. Coman “Blair threatens to wreck treaty over tax policies” (Page 4) The Guardian Monday 11th December 2000 • Black I. , M. White “Blair holds on to UK’s key vetoes” (Page 1) • Black I. “Europe’s big four pull rank on minnows” (Page 4) • Black I. “Focus turns to power split” (Page 4) • Comment section “Naughty at Nice” • Hope C. “Jeaux sans frontiers” (G2 Section Pages 8 and 9) The Telegraph Monday 11th December 2000 • Evans-Pritchard A. , G. Jones “EU leaders scramble to fix a deal” (Page 1) • Jones J. A. Evans-Pritchard “A marathon with jostling all the way” (Page 4) • Evans-Pritchard A. , “Vote grab by the Big Five leaves smaller states outgunned and outraged” (Page 4) • Mc Smith A. “Blair troops appeal fails” (Page 4) • Comment section “The reality of Nice” (Page 19) • Letter to the Editor “Swift victory on Euro army may be Pyrrhic” (Page 19) The Sun Monday 11th December 2000 • Kavanagh T. “Fiasco in France” (Pages 8 and 9) • Kavanalagh T. “ 40 years of Euro waffle… now reality sets in” (Pages 8 and 9) The Guardian Tuesday12th December 2000 • White M. , I.
Black “Tories left floundering by EU deal” (Pages 1 and 2) • Black I. “How big powers won big benefits” (Page 6) • Henley J. “Europe points finger at Chirac” (Pages 6) • White M. “Blair balancing act tips election scales” (Page 7) • Young H. “Everyone was a winner at the battle of Nice” (Page 24) • Comment section “Nice enough” The Telegraph Tuesday 12th December 2000 • Jones G. “Blair sold us short at Nice says Hague” (Page 1) • Jones G. “Blair’s battle tales hide truth of victory” (Page 4) • Evans-Pritchard A. “Germany becomes first among equals” (Page 4) • Helm T. H. Quetterville “Schroder hailed for back door coup” (Page 4) • Kallenbach M. “Tories would put new treaty to a referendum” (Page 14) The Sun Tuesday 12th December 2000 • Kavanagh T. “What Blair has really given us” (Page 2) • The Sun say section “Blair owes us” (Page 8) • Kavanagh T. “French farce” (Page 8) • htpp://www. bbcnews. com “EU Guidelines” (07 December 2000) • htpp://www. bbcnews. com “EU Summit at a glance” (12 December 2000) • htpp://www. bbcnews. com “EU Analysis” (11 December 2000) Background Reading • Curren J. , J. Seaton (1991) Power without responsibility.
The press and broadcasting in Britain. London, Routledge • Mc Nair B. , (1999) News and Journalism in the UK. New York, Routledge • Wilson J. , (1996) Understanding Journalism. London, Routledge • Stevenson N. , (1999) The transformation of the Media. Globalisation, morality and ethics. New York, Pearson Education Ltd. • Branston G. , R. Stafford, (1991) The Media Student’s Book London, Routledge Material supplied by TVU • Hilton A. , (1996) Report Writing London, Kogan Page Ltd • UK Press Complaint Commission Code of Practise. • ITC Guidelines. • BBC Editorial’s Values. • NUJ Code of Conduct