Leveson Report: Reaction is the problem

If you are living in Britain, you probably cannot escape the coverage of the Leveson report. I admit that I have not read the report and am therefore not going to comment on its content. However, as I was listening to morning radio on the way to work, it occurred to me how many people (politicians in particular) were keen to commend the report as “very good” whilst at the same time admitting that they had not read it fully. What precisely did they like? the name on the cover? the binding? its thickness? the executive summary? This does not inspire confidence.

Leveson: Focus Too Narrow

I came across a good piece by Graham Jones entitled “Leveson has wasted his time”. Its an article worth reading and notes the flaws within the report that basically focusses on printed newspaper journalism rather than the wider “media” which as we know would include blogs, tweets, facebook and an array of “media”. The short truth is that the existing laws were broken and had these been abided by the scandals would not have occurred.  The problem is really one of access to justice and the general assumption that “there’s no smoke without fire” which in media terms is really saying, we believe you are guilty, so whilst we don’t have proof, we will charge you as such. Lord McAlpine was one of those that experienced this sort of folly. The damage to individuals and businesses is largely done by whispering masses, which in 2012 is the on-line world.

Reacting to Reactions – What Happened to Principles?

The current Leveson story will soon be over, but often revisited. The main issue I have is not one of freedom of the press, (which I take to be an obvious requirement in a democracy) but of the constant perceived need to have a quick answer or response, a sound-bite. One must ask whatever happened to contemplation, reflection and assessment. This is actually the problem within media of all forms. The constant need for reaction. This is a cultural issue too, just applying this to my own field of expertise – many play the game of reacting to events. The stock markets – up or down – what is your move? what is the reaction? how will you position the portfolio this afternoon?  this misses the point of long-term investing which is based upon rational principles that should not be changed hurriedly. My own view is that this approach to life is rather adolescent at best – unable to yet move into adult responsibility, but rather blown by the wind.

Freedom Brings Responsibility

As has been said before “with freedom comes responsibility” and that has been sadly lacking, (but not purely by newspaper journalists – some television “documentaries” that I have seen in the last year are a very good example of very weak or very poor investigative journalism). However, we all make mistakes and have a tendency to say the wrong thing, but freedom of the press – or our own free speech, should never mean that its OK to insult people just because you can. Sadly the financial adviser blogs are often places where many seem to relish the opportunity to release toxic vitriol upon anyone in their sights – invariably this is the regulator. So before we are drawn to conclude the newspaper industry needs reforming, many could do with some time for self-reflection. Myself included.