Media storm virtue and risk

Not much blogging recently due to various factors. But to prove I'm still alive and watching the news….

The TV and internet are full of stuff about News International and the allegations of criminal wrongdoing. There is clearly a desire to ‘get Murdoch’ which recent events have now unleashed. But before we loose perspective we might want to note that it isn’t just News International whose practices need reviewing. Consider the allegations of plagiarism facing the Independent’s Johann Hari  and the related wikipedia character assignations by ‘David Rose’. Or the Information Commissioners 2006 report into incidents of illegal activity which place the Mirror and Mail Newspaper groups at the top of the list of illicit dealings by a factor of 10 over News International. Or the accusations that Piers Morgan knowing ran stories which had been obtained by phone hacking when he was editor of the Mirror. Or the accusation that Tom Baldwin (now Ed Miliband’s communications guy) used a private detective to raid the accounts of the conservative party when he was a News International journalist. So many accusations that you may wonder why anyone places confidence in the news media at all!

The problem stems from two related issues. First, the ethical standards of the individuals and companies themselves that appear to be compromised by the second issue, which is the desire to push the envelope in order to secure the best story, break new ground and to win friends or market share. But it is this combination of virtue and risk which is worth considering, not least because there needs to be a way of maximising both rather than understanding the future as either / or.  Because the natural response, as seen in parliament today is to seek to retreat into a world which may be ethically clearer but, by force of regulation, commercially safer.

If there is one lesson the church might offer politicians it is that pursing a policy of ethical purity and risk aversion leads to long term decline; indeed the press contains reports this week which warn of the Church of England’s demise in the next 20 years.

Both in church life and in public life we need to combine virtue with a willingness to encourage risk.

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