Should journalists keep their opinions to themselves?

29 Nov

I know a number of journalists very well and I myself trained as one, so a question put to me today by a fairly senior journalist at Lloyd’s List made me think.

Do journalists, such as Melanie Phillips and Polly Toynbee deserve the platform as opinion leaders that they receive?

The theory behind the question is that journalists generally report on other people’s opinions. Once they start reporting their own through opinion columns and tv programmes, do they cease to be journalists to become opinion leaders?

At what point does a journalist graduate to this position? Most columnists, unless they are celebrities, start of as journos but once they gain a significant level of experience and a high enough reputation will often become columnists and opinionistas. But what is their experiential basis to write on certain issues.

Polly Toynbee often writes on political theory and messaging, which is fair enough as she has probably been around the workings of politics for most of her journalistic career.

Melanie Phillips however seems to often write and speak on environment and socialological issues. But when did she become an environmental scientist or sociology professor? Does she work with environmental or socialogical scientists?

I believe journalists and colomnists should be able to report on issues, but I’m not sure if their experience or their position necessarily allows them to analyse issues, unless of course they have trained in the sector or have been part of the issue.

Would be interested to know your thoughts.

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One Response to “Should journalists keep their opinions to themselves?”

  1. Anon E Mouse December 2, 2009 at 3:43 pm #

    Polly Toynbee flys to her villa in Italy regularly and still preaches to the masses that they should care about the environment. The word is hypocrisy so I’m not fond of her.

    Melenie Phillips is not a hypocrite and is free to have an opinion different to mine so I don’t care.

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