Journalists have an immensely important and responsible role to play in society.

There are numerous accounts of investigative journalists exposing corruption, injustice and other wrong doings. There are many brave war correspondents who risk their lives to expose genocide, rape and other crimes against humanity. There are specialist journalists who report on scientific research and provide health education to the benefit of all.

I have read reports where people describe why they became a journalist. Most joined the profession for altruistic reasons wanting to do good, change the world and make a difference. Many had a passion for writing and enjoyed a good story. Others wanted to meet interesting people and to travel. Some say they saw it as a way of life.

I grew up in London with a great respect for journalism because my mother was the Editor of Good Housekeeping (which had a huge circulation in those days). She was a top journalist at National Magazine Company and also editor in chief and mentor for other editors. She cared a lot about people and was quite ground breaking in the articles she promoted and published.

I have not read a single a report where a journalist said they chose to enter the profession so that they could cause great harm to humanity, individuals and themselves.

But this is what is happening on a massive scale.

So what has gone wrong?

Journalists these days are under increasing pressure in an industry facing huge redundancies, cut backs, fewer staff, pressure to write more and more quantity and for every story to be sensational and attention catching.

Imagine how demoralising it must be to work in an environment like that and under these kind of pressures.

A recent survey by CareerCast ranked journalism as being the fifth worst job to have in 2012. It states that being a reporter at a newspaper, magazine or TV show is worse than waiting tables and only a tiny bit less lousy than working on an oil rig. They blame the combination of high stress and scarce career opportunities.

Then we have the issue of the concentrated power of the media magnates.

Fair.org a US National Media Watch Group states:

“Almost all media that reach a large audience in the United States are owned by for-profit corporations – institutions that by law are obligated to put the profits of their investors ahead of all other considerations. The goal of maximizing profits is often in conflict with the practice of responsible journalism.

Not only are most major media owned by corporations, these companies are becoming larger and fewer in number as the biggest ones absorb their rivals. This concentration of ownership tends to reduce the diversity of media voices and puts great power in the hands of a few companies. As news outlets fall into the hands of large conglomerates with holdings in many industries, conflicts of interest inevitably interfere with newsgathering.”

In a recent speech Professor Matthew Ricketson states:

“Australia’s newspaper industry is among the most concentrated in the developed world. An international collaborative research project on media concentration led by Professor Eli Noam of Columbia University has been analysing concentration in major media industries around the world. The project has generated data on the newspaper industry in 26 countries 27 including Australia. One of the measures used is the proportion of daily newspaper circulation controlled by the leading firms in the industry. Australia is the only country in which the leading press company accounts for more than half of daily circulation, while in 20 of the 26 countries it is under 40 per cent. With a share of 86 per cent, Australia also ranks highest by a considerable margin when considering the share of the top two companies.”

The 2012 Andrew Olle Media Lecture was delivered by Mark Colvin on 5th November. He spoke amongst other things about the challenges that the industry is facing noting that:

“You can only describe 2012 – as the Queen once said – as an annus horribilis. Probably most in this room have seen friends and colleagues take redundancy this year, from both of the country’s biggest media conglomerates, News and Fairfax.”

Mark also spoke about the News Corp hacking in the UK:

“From the pattern of arrests in Britain we can conclude that there was a huge network of bribery that took in not just senior police, but members of the armed forces, airport employees, and more. This was not just a press corruption issue, but a corruption issue which infected the system from top to bottom.”

He identifies problems the industry is facing, makes some suggestions and ends with:

“I wish I could give you a roadmap and some certainty. I can’t, and anyone who says they can is a charlatan. All I can give you is my profound conviction that good journalism – journalism of integrity – is a social good and an essential part of democracy, and we have to do everything we can to try to preserve it.”

So with all of the above in play we lose more and more quality journalists and end up with more and more copy and pasting of fabricated articles, celebrity gossip, trivial sensationalism and outright lies.

Meanwhile, there are very real topics and things going on in the world that are crying out to be looked at, reported on and exposed.

People are suffering emotionally and physically and don’t know what to do about it.

  • illness and disease rates are through the roof;
  • people are giving up, numbing and distracting themselves, overeating, self-harming and when all that does not work killing themselves;
  • slavery (human trafficking) is global with children and adults being sold for sex and labour exploitation.

We don’t like to look at these kind of issues as they all feel too huge, too awful, too painful and too overwhelming. That bring up a sort of hopelessness and helplessness and then we just give up.

But it is that very giving up and not looking at things that has allowed the rot.

The solution is to look deeply at all of these things. See the full extent of the problem and bring it out into the open. It is only then that we can make the choices that are required to bring about true change and true healing.

Below are just a few more of the many thousands of issues that we (humanity) with the help of responsible journalism need to start looking deeply at and taking responsibility for:

Suicide

Lifeline reports that in Australia 1,014 people think of suicide every day, 249 plan it, 180 attempt suicide and 6 people actually commit suicide every day.

Suicide.org reports that over one million people die by suicide worldwide each year. On average every 40 seconds someone commits suicide somewhere in the world and that the global suicide rate has increased 60% in the past 45 years.

As you have been reading this someone has just killed themselves.

The impact of their death will have a rippling effect on many other people, their families, friends, colleagues, the entire school in the case of children, those that find them – this can easily add up to 40 or more people so we now have 40,000,000 people affected by suicide each year.

Slavery

World Vision Australia reports: “Human trafficking is emerging as one of the world’s most lucrative crime industries, after arms and drugs. Like arms and drugs, human trafficking is transnational and organised.

The scale of the problem is enormous. It is estimated that trafficking enslaves well over 27 million people around the globe. Many of these millions are our neighbours in Southeast Asia.”

Slavery exists in all countries including Australia. Amnesty International reported:

“Trafficking for forced prostitution in Greece is believed to have increased tenfold from 1990 until 1997.”

“Around the world, men, women and children are trafficked for exploitation including sexual servitude, forced labour and the harvesting of organs. Little is known about the true extent of trafficking in Australia, but Australia is a destination country for victims of trafficking, mainly from the Asia-Pacific region. Unfortunately, many Australians remain ignorant about this issue.”

Illness and Disease

Despite the amazing dedication and research of the scientific and medical professions, illness and disease are massively on the increase. WHO reports that global cancer rates could increase by 50% in the year 2020.

The estimated diabetes prevalence worldwide for 2011 was 366 million and it is expected to affect 552 million people by 2030.

Below are a few statistics only related to the UK and the financial cost of diabetes, they do not take into account the global cost and the tremendous suffering that this disease and in particular the horrendous complications of diabetes cause:

  • The National Health Service reports the financial cost of Diabetes as being over £1.5m an hour or 10% of the NHS budget for England and Wales. This equates to over £25,000 being spent on diabetes every minute. In total, an estimated £14 billion pounds is spent a year on treating diabetes and its complications, with the cost of treating complications representing the much higher cost.
  • It costs England and Wales £8.4 billion per year in absenteeism and £6.9 billion in early retirement.

The above are just a few statistics for cancer and diabetes. Obesity, mental illness and other conditions have equally horrifying and statistics showing that financial and human suffering costs are massively on the increase.

It is not just illness, disease, suicide and slavery (as if that was not enough) but everywhere you look that you can find statistics that are a wake-up call for us to say things are not right in the world for example:

  • 12 billion bullets are produced each year – enough to kill everyone in the world twice (Amnesty International)
    • child soldiers are being used in armed conflict in 19 countries (Amnesty International)
    • 150 million girls and 73 million boys worldwide are raped or subject to sexual violence each year (Save the Children)

and the list goes on and on.

Humanity is suffering, journalists are suffering, those who have been abused by journalists are suffering and the media moguls have completely lost their way.

It is time for Real Media, Real Change.