Time for the press to make its apologia pro vita sua (again)…

I don’t normally bother blogging leading articles, but this one on the crisis in British journalism from the Irish Times is worth quoting (and the opening quote alone is worth following the link for):

Against that background, however, of enormous and understandable suspicion of all the media it behoves “quality” journalism again to make its case, its apologia pro vita sua, albeit with some humility.

Yes, we’re in business, and to make a profit – and there may be easier ways to do that these days – but as the hacking scandal proves all too clearly, the function of shining a bright light on power, the state, politics, the police, and, yes, the media themselves, is an indispensible pillar of democracy. The price we pay for a free media to do precisely that is Murdoch and his ilk. But it is worth paying.

Nor is the battle to uphold journalistic values new. It’s worth recalling the campaign by the New York Times back in 1897 against the city’s “yellow” press, notorious for never letting the truth get in the way of a good story. The paper’s new motto then would serve us all well and tax a Murdoch title: “All The News Thats Fit To Print.”

Amen to that…

  • No. I dont believe that “Journalism” should apologise.
    Journalism has not done much that is really wrong and only a minority will actually be convicted of anything.

    At worst Journalism is culpable of understating the scandal. And I dont think that “over-stating” the scandal is actually going to help now. There has been a certain self regard but it has been amusing rather than scandalous and maybe too many broadsheet journalsts allowed their tabloid colleagues to do what tabloids do in order to preserve a “niche” market for both of them.
    Basically an agreement to stay off each others “patch”.

    And hard not to think that a Grand Apology Strategy would not at least be a worry about “regulation” other than the Press Complaints Council.
    The Press holds itself in higher regard than the Public does but thats no reason to grovel about in sackcloth and ashes.
    Indeed an acknowledgement that it screwed up and a commitment to getting it right……..coming out fighting and more fearless is arguably better than the “apology” strategy.

    We have Apology Fatigue.
    Politicians over expenses.
    Catholic Church folks.
    Police over whatever.
    Bankers over their activities.

    Indeed serial apologies by serial apologists. The last thing we or Journalism needs is yet another Grand Apology Strategy.
    Come out Fighting with an acknowledgement of past behaviour is really a much better tactic.

  • pippakin

    A free press is vital to democracy even most politicians recognise that.

    All that is needed is to clean house. The phone hacking itself was not a problem for most people. The problem was NI and others not knowing when to stop.

    The Murdochs have never been ‘liked’ or even respected, they were merely feared, so an opportunity to kick them when they were down was too good to miss.

    I don’t believe anyone wants the freedom of the press curtailed. I think most people want the PCC strengthened, given real power and independent people from outside the media included in its committees.

    Nor is one journalist better than another even the sainted Guardian went after this story to sell papers, increase their readership and of course there is the small by product of increased power.

    It was good old fashioned right against, in this case, soft left or champagne pink, with the left conveniently forgetting their own politicians part in the scandal, some of that may yet emerge.

  • Mick Fealty

    Apologia = http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apologia

    : a defense especially of one’s opinions, position, or actions

  • pippakin

    Who is this beast, this ‘quality journalism’ that’s supposed to do the apologising? All those who made sure they were looking the other way? Humble pie is not a dish that is best served cold, or at all.

    I don’t think the hair shirt is a fits all variety and nor do I think anyone is really interested in the crocodile tears of the guilty. Its like a politician apologising for the events of a century ago. Its pointless.

    And yes it is worth the risk that there may from time to time be a Murdoch. If the truth be told there has always been a Murdoch and perhaps there should be to keep the rest of the industry on its toes. The Guardian did no one any favours, it did its job.

    As I said all that’s needed is to clean house and give the PCC or whatever replaces it the teeth to keep it clean.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Apologia =/= apologise.

    It appears FJHorse’s humiliation was not enough.

    I quite agree on the dubious ‘quality’ distinction. I believe that’s ABC1 targeted advertising dressing up as a service to democracy again.

  • Mick has linked to the meaning of the word and it is not to apologise. The complete phrase, apologia pro vita sua, was most famously used by by Cardinal Newman as the title of his autobiography and defended his religious beliefs which included his conversion from CofE to the RC church.

  • pippakin


    I did look it up! but Apologia Pro Vita Sua can hardly be described as adequate to the phone hacking scandal. perhaps the pope will try it in defense of Cloyne.

  • Alias

    “In truth, the demise of the News of the World has done – and will do – nothing to reshape the culture of the British tabloid media, of sleaze, of obsession with celebrity and salacious gossip, of intrusion, rightly described as “Murdochisation”, though others are also implicated. And which has also unfortunately crossed the Irish Sea. ”

    Very true, and a point I’ve made before about the importation of British culture promoted by Conor Cruise O’Brien for the express purpose of undermining Irish culture. We have now been infected with this British-engineered disease but unlike the UK have no way of controlling it.

  • Mick Fealty


    What has the Irish Times, the Guardian or the Daily Telegraph to apologise for? Apologia in this case means laying out again one’s value and purpose. That may also be key to reversing commercial fortunes too.

    CCO’B’s to blame? How so?

  • pippakin

    Mick Fealty

    I know what it means! I used the wrong word in my comment to Joe I should have said it was hardly relevant to the phone hacking scandal.

    ‘Laying out again one’s value and purpose’ As though no one knows what that is?

    I think most people are sceptical… about the MSM in general and I don’t believe its possible to divorce the two streams of the print industry in such a clear cut fashion although its clearly what the Telegraph, Guardian and Times want.

    I’m sorry I can see you wanted Apologia Pro Vita Sua to be the main focus of the thread but I’m afraid I thought of it as just another angle and a slightly snobby too clever by half one at that.

    I did check, Wiki first, then when you added your first comment Merriam.

  • Mick Fealty


    Who’s talking about divorce? It’s about clarity and particularity. It wasn’t the state who redd Murdoch out of his power foxholes, or ‘Disgusted of Internet Wells”.

    It was Nick Davies and the Guardian who drove it with some considerable investment from the owners and editorial staff of the Guardian.

  • pippakin

    Mick Fealty

    Disgusted of Internet Wells ! LOL!! The hairnets in the wash…

    The Guardian did its job and took their time doing it. Pardon me if I think that’s what they’re there for.

    And yes I do think there is an attempt to divorce, oops we’re catholics, separate the ‘good from the bad’ print media, regrettably I also think that not only is that not possible its not true. Clarity and particularity are not new, nor are they the sole preserve of ‘quality journalists’.

    I’m such a cynical, suspicious person I’m always wondering why which in this case I think is easy to see, ‘quality journalists’ want to rehabilitate themselves. I don’t think that’s necessary.

  • andnowwhat

    Here’s an issue for journalists and one which was most predictable….

    Liam Adams is citing the UTV documentary about the allegations against him. I’m pretty sure that Suzanne Breen’s stream of article will also be brought up (if they have not already).

    What the hell did UTV and Breen think they were playing at? Was the latter’s journey on the ant SF bandwagon so blinding to basic, well known laws on predjudice were ignored?

    Not sure if I mentioned it on Slugger but I most certainly mentioned it elsewhere, this was always going to happen.

  • Mick Fealty

    You and a few dozen others!!

    Let’s be clear: Mr Adams is citing his daughter’s witness on television, an option she took after 22 years of trying other means to get the problem addressed.

    Mr Adams is certainly at liberty to use that the coverage programme (not to mention his own brother’s statement of belief in the daughter’s account) as a defence.

    I am not sure why that should put the making of the programme (and the following coverage) into the ‘unethical’ category?