Angela Rippon on the role of the media

Honesty, integrity, and accuracy are parts of a code of practice that journalists should adhere to, according to Angela Rippon, a BBC journalist. These were first taught to her 43 years ago when she first started out in journalism and she firmly believes they are still relevant today.

Angela Rippon during her speech on Monday. Photo Anneka James

Rippon, the first female journalist to read the news on the BBC, visited Lincoln to give a guest lecture on the importance of consumer journalism. The speech, held on Monday February 15th in the main building, was attended by students, members of the public and professors from the university.

She gave a brief history on television programmes that dealt with consumer issues, such as “That’s Life” with Esther Rantzen, “Money Box” on Radio 4 and her very own show “Rip Off Britain”, which had the brief to “right wrongs where we could”. She highlighted the importance of the media’s job in bringing together people who have suffered: “All over the country there are individuals who are facing a problem or fighting an injustice on their own and because they are on their own they often believe that the problem is confined just to them. As an individual they are pretty powerless against a large corporation, or a large organisation.”

“But an organ of the national media, a television programme, a radio programme, a national newspaper, a local newspaper they can see the bigger picture because what you are able to do is collate those individual cases and realise after a while that they present not an isolated case but a national scandal and that’s when the power of the media can kick in.”

The main example Rippon used to demonstrate the power of the journalist was the thalidomide scandal from the 1960s. The drug was taken by pregnant women to cure morning sickness, but caused severe deformities in children such as missing limbs. Rippon said that cases like this were being hidden from the public until journalists stood up for the people affected by this scandal.

The media’s role, she says, is to act as a “champion” for the consumer by acting as the voice for the individual: “You have a spotlight that you can train on those areas that some people would rather keep dark. You can shine that light into those dark crevices and expose the crooks, the charlatans, the malpractice and the injustice that is very often lurking in those shadows.”

Her final message was: “The truth will always be the best story, the rest frankly is just comic book material.”

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