Heard the one about the tabloid reporter who had had enough? And then quit? And then made a film doorstepping newspaper editors to give them a taste of their own medicine? Rich Peppiatt is that man and there is a special screening in Birmingham.
By Alan Taman
One Rogue Reporter is the result: a 90-minute film which mercilessly and hilariously uses that irony to raise crucial questions about the graceless fall of the Red-Tops. About press freedom, privacy, and ethics in journalism. Questions which every journalist who claims to have a conscience (ie, is human) should be asking. As should every PR, because what happens in journalism echoes for (some would say is generated because of) PR.
That’s why the news that the Electric Cinema – that temple of good taste which is also hosting comm2 point0’s Unwards later in December – is screening One Rogue Reporter on Tuesday 9 December is jolly good.
It’s also very important. Which is why Birmingham & Coventry NUJ Branch has agreed to host a free drink & discussion session at nearby Cherry Reds bar (John Bright Street), and the film-maker – Rich Peppiatt – has agreed to attend both the screening and the after-screen drink & discussion. Anyone who comes to the screening will get a drinks voucher for Cherry Reds, valid for that evening.
Why is this important? Because without a press that reflects values of integrity, accountability and the ability to discern and question how power is upheld all we have is prompts for shopping (Andrew Marr goes so far as to say that the UK press is now ‘all about the shopping’, and plenty agree with him). And without a not only free but also ethical press, the pressures on honest, principled and dare I say ethical PRs to act simply to further their clients’ or organisations’ interests and to hell with the rest can only grow. Some would say that is all PR is already – check out Spinwatch. It’s a powerful argument, when you look at the state of lobbying for example (which David Miller’s Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy makes with excruciating clarity).
Yet I share the view that it needn’t be that way. It mustn’t be. We can do this better. I’ve seen it done better, and for noble motives: promoting the health of children. There is a better way but all of us – journalists and PRs – have to guard it. Rich Peppiatt’s film is a step towards that. Please come along. Hear what he has to say. Tell us what you think. And maybe, just maybe, the oxymorons of ‘ethical journalism’ and ‘ethical PR’ can be shown to be a workable truth and not presumed to be a hopeless ideal.
Alan Taman is currently researching and campaigning for better training and standards in health journalism and PR. He is a member of the National Union of Journalist’s Public Relations and Communications Council and Vice-Chair of the Birmingham & Coventry Branch. He can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org or via his website. You can follow the campaign on @healthjournos on Twitter or on www.europeanhealthjournalism.com