A philosopher – Parmenides
News as a profession is unphilosophical. It is full of ideas – even ideas about itself – but it rarely frames that thinking in terms of either classical or modern philosophical theory or discourse. In journalism, the phrase ‘philosophical’ is usually used in connection with a football manager at a post-match press conference reflecting phlegmatically on a dodgy penalty decision during his side’s third home defeat.
[Read a shorter version of this article here]
My reading about journalism is usually in relation to political economy, economics, literary or cultural theory, sociology, history, anthropology – even a bit of theology – but almost never philosophy. And yet I lecture about ethics of media. I recognise this is possibly a mistake.
The LSE’s Professor of Philosophy Luc Bovens once gave a brilliant talk for my think-tank Polis about the idea of ‘moral hazard’. How can you apply philosophical logic to a tough moral decision for a journalist such as whether to take a photograph of a starving child, or stop work and help? (His ‘answer’ was that they should take the photograph, by the way). And I have colleagues who do philosophy, such as Prof Nick Couldry who draws upon Aristotelian ethics.
But it’s clear that I am not going to start from a position of deep philosophical knowledge when I ask this philosophical question: “What Is News?”
For most of my career the people who decided what news was were journalists. But that authority is now waning. Continue reading