Writing for Her Campus is something that most of we members do for practice, enjoyment and a CV boost. To be writing for an online, potentially global platform is something that should be done with responsibility even if our readership isn’t quite that of The New York Times or Daily Mail. It is of my opinion that public writing should be thought through, reasoned and if strongly opinionated, well-explained.
Both here in Exeter and in the national arena there are currently debates about freedom of speech and what it truly means. Is it enough to justify a poorly written piece by labelling it ‘opinion’? Is it the role of the press to go where no-one else does, even if that means sacrificing quality or respect?
This week the British Privy Council, (a cross-party, governmental advisory body), has rejected newspaper proposals for a royal charter covering press regulation. There are to be readjustments and a specially convened meeting on the 30th October for further discussion. The primary governmental concern was the proposal for self-regulation by the press. These self-regulation options arose after the 2011 Leveson Inquiry, set up to investigate the hacking of murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler’s mobile phone by News of the World journalists.
As expected, the clash comes between the newspaper industry and the government amid arguments of too much political influence versus escaping accountability. Speaking in the House of Commons, Maria Miller MP, Culture Secretary, explained that the reasoning behind the rejection was principally because the proposals did not align with Leveson recommendations and government policy. On the contrary, various news outlets are arguing that they could take legal action in European courts against new rules claiming they could prohibit true freedom of speech.
An additional voice is the celebrity and victim of phone-hacking, Hugh Grant, representing the Hacked Off campaign. In a BBC News interview he claimed that if the government do not remain faithful to the Leveson principles then it would be giving into the pressure of “press barons” as well as a betrayal to the families of those affected by journalistic hacking.
We are all in a hugely privileged to be living in a society where free and exploratory reporting is encouraged, whether working for a national paper or a student outlet without fear of serious repercussions. Nonetheless this should not mean that that this honour is smeared with rushed and invasive pieces. An article should attract attention for how well it is written, not because it is inflammatory or offensive. We should be respecting the art of journalism.
Whether the Privy Council and newspaper industry will strike a balance to ensure the preservation of high quality free speech I still do not know.