Video: BBC’s Rippon and C4’s Byrne debate ‘what’s good journalism’

— Words by Marcell Grant, video produced by Jonathan Cresswell

Angela Rippon, one of the country’s most recognisable female journalists, believes social networking and blogging are threats to good journalism. Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4’s head of news and current affairs, says they “open up a wonderful conversation between a Journalist and a member of the public”.

Rippon expressed her distaste for the social networking phenomena as a means of news coverage, stating that “accuracy is the first casualty of speed”. She went on to say that “bloggers and cyberspace jockeys are delusional if they believe that what they are writing is journalism”. The power of reporting, she says, must be yielded with responsibility.

Byrne took a different stance on social networking, saying that blogs are “fantastic”. She added that the collective British public must know more than the collective British press.

They were debating “What makes good journalism?” on Monday, October 18th in the University of Lincoln’s Cargill Lecture Theatre. The event was part of the “journalists speak out on journalism” series, which is being live-streamed by The Linc. Both women are visiting professors at the university.

The debate opened with Rippon, the first regular female newsreader for the BBC, juxtaposing the differences between the tabloid and broadsheet press in the context of “good Journalism”. She illustrated her point by showing the differences in headlines from respective papers of that day, including the Telegraph and Daily Star. Rippon’s speech was well structured and sometimes impassioned, when describing her favourite journalistic feats.

She then highlighted and analysed several factors that contribute to good journalism, stressing the need for coherent communication, impeccable research, and most of all commitment. Rippon stated that many broadsheet readers want “serious measured delivery” as opposed to the “screaming rhetoric of the local pub” that certain tabloid writers espouse, giving Richard Littlejohn as an example of the latter.

However, she also said: “It would be very easy to fall into the trap of snobbery.” All news outlets, she believes, can be seen as producing good journalism when “measured by the expectations and demands of their readers”.

Dorothy Byrne – described by the debate’s host Professor Richard Keeble as “massively influential and often controversial” – took a more conversational tone in her speech and raised several cogent points. Byrne stated that she had a “high level of confidence in the accuracy of television journalism” and said that people must “believe that it [journalism] matters” for the industry to flourish.

“We are some of the sources in society which empower people to do good… It is absolutely clear that you cannot have any form of democratic system without a free press,” she said.

She jokingly warned the students present that they will “never be rich” and will “always be a disappointment to their parents” if they pursued television journalism as a career. Byrne ended with the comment that “a good Journalist realises they do not know as much as they think”.

Comments are closed.