A Tale of Morality, the Media and Politics.

Really it is more of a loosely connected ramble then a “tale,” which I write in the early hours of the morning, in a Canadian airport, drinking Columbian coffee, after reading the New York Times. As I wrote this, the sun rose, spreading hope and the sort of heat that is almost inescapable in this oil rich prairie Province in which I currently live.

As I watch people exit taxi’s, private cars and limousines, luggage in tow, I can’t help but think of England, home, and being that I am at an airport – the rest of this vast world, accessible through check in counters and those bridges which link this airport to the planes. Perhaps writing at 5:30am, with little sleep, one becomes prone to these and other sorts of thoughts – especially with all these flight attendants rushing round the place. And now onto the topics of my article.

A very talented young journalist friend of mine recently told me that journalism is one of the most ‘powerful’ careers which exist, and I have to agree. Our actions shape reality. The media is a prism, through which we see reality, reflected and refracted in countless different ways. The media therefore can simultaneously create or destroy; excite or monotonies; generate awareness or dull our sense.

Witness the media’s glee when it comes to destroying or damaging many promising (or otherwise) political careers, especially when it comes to the sort of extra-marital affairs that are not just limited to the political sphere. As far as I am concerned, that’s their personal lives. As long as their affairs don’t get in the way of their work then I have to ask; why should we care? Case in point: Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York, was a very able political leader of that city, who on more than one occasion was criticized by the press for having affairs (see the movie, The Giuliani Story). None of those in any way affected his ability to do the job he was elected to do.

This brings me to my next point, which is; in the hands of the media, a public persons morality and judgment (or lack thereof, in some cases) becomes part of the product they are selling that given day. The media is a very important social prism, but we must not forget that the components of that social entity are businesses. They have shareholders, high overheads, especially in this globalised century, and their customers are always demanding more. More extensive coverage, more points of view, and deeper analysis. We demand and we expect more. The media sometimes is playing catch up to technological advances and the consumers expectations, and all the time doing their best to adapt to their competitors advancements on those fronts, whilst trying to handle, or turn around lower ratings and decreasing circulation figures. Those are the key ingredients to the all powerful lifeline of the media: advertising revenue.

With all those factors in flux, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more M&A activity in this sector in the next few years.

That brings me, albeit as clumsily as a drunken man in Soho stepping into a sex shop, onto the topic of politics. Neither actor in these almost symbiotic worlds (of politics and the media) are virtuous and pure. Media Executives and Editor’s need high ratings and good circulation figures, whilst Politicians need the confidence of their contemporaries, and votes from the public. Both have to do whatever they can in order to secure the things which keep them doing what they do. However, (and I make no apologies if I sound, in historical terms “Whiggish,” or simply naïve) I honestly feel that most politicians and journalists have almost noble desires at their core. As a rule, no one gets into the media to print lies. Likewise with politics.

So I bring this ramble to a close by merely stating some valuable wisdom :- don’t believe everything you read. I could in fact of written this whole thing inside that bar, Pravda, located inside one of your cities larger hotels. But I didn’t. Though it would better explain the rambling, and the apparent contradiction I made a moment ago. My more important point is this: we should not forget that journalists and politicians are, at the end of the day, human. Even those as well respected, or loathed, as our own Mrs. Thatcher. Their humanity, I believe, is something too easily forgotten or overlooked when we look into and through that social prism of the media. Both journalists and politicians have a great deal of influence in the world, but I do not believe that gives us the right to demand moral faultlessness from them.

DOMINIC TARN.

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