Saturday, December 09, 2006

The problem with freedom of the press is just that

I've been following an argument in Liberal Democrat Voice with some interest, related to the appropriateness of a particular posting. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the actual posting itself, as it isn't especially relevant for the purposes of what follows.

As a blogger myself, and a bureaucrat too, I am well aware of the power of information. Used in the right (wrong) way, it can be a most destructive weapon, particularly when used against individuals. It can also be a means of promoting participation and inclusivity, of encouraging valuable debate and generating ideas, all of which we would, I think, applaud.

As a Officer of my Regional Executive, I am given important information which might be potentially damaging if it were to go any further. Would I be right to disseminate that information, regardless of its impact on individuals, or should I withhold it for the perceived 'good of the Party'? As an individual, albeit one who is part of a wider team, the decision is comparatively simple and will be founded on my personal priniciples and preferences.

As a newspaper editor, the dilemma is somewhat different. Publish and be damned, or don't publish, and be ignored? In the case of Liberal Democrat Voice, a medium in the throes of establishing a wider credibility, the problem is thrown into even starker contrast. To be a success, it does need to establish a reputation as a 'medium of record' whilst maintaining a degree of independence from the Party centrally.

Mistakes will undoubtedly be made, and these are part of the process of 'growing up'. On the other hand, without pushing the envelope from time to time, we will end up with something that our gallant control freak friends in the Labour Party would approve of, something akin to our very own Pravda (a.k.a. Liberal Democrat News), a vehicle for political propaganda and no more (I'm not being hard on Deirdre and her team by the way, they do what is asked of them, no more, no less).

Freedom of the press does include the freedom to get it wrong occasionally, and critics should bear that in mind before wading in indiscriminately. I've always tended to correspond with people whose views have disconcerted me where possible, because written missives do not always come across in the manner intended. Asking the question, "is my perception of this comment what was intended by the author?", tends to be a good first thought. I only wish that I asked it more often myself...

2 comments:

Watcher said...

Spill the beans so we can have some fun

Empress Jessica said...

Watcher,

Such lack of good manners! Mark would never be so ungallant as to betray a confidence to an anonymous stranger. We taught Mark the old-fashioned courtesies of a happier time (our dearly-departed Hapsburgs were right about that at least, a pity about the inbreeding...).