Posted on 19 November 2010
Last night the department hosted a discussion on freedom of the press and investigative journalism, hosted by University of York chancellor (and ex director-general of the BBC), Greg Dyke.
He was joined by Ian Bloom, who is Head of Corporate and Media at Ross and Craig solicitors, and a libel lawyer who has sued every British national newspaper except the Daily Star. Sitting next to Ian was Simon Singh, an author, TV producer and journalism who successfully defended a libel action brought by the British Chiropractic Association, after he had the temerity to suggest that their claims to be able to cure various childhood ailments might not be factually accurate. Despite being on opposite sides of the libel fence they seemed to be getting on fairly well with each other...
Helen Boaden, Director of BBC News, offered a senior journalist's take on the subject; and Dr David Levy, who is Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, was able to give academic and ethical insights.
The discussion was wide ranging, covering such issues as whether the BBC could ever be truly impartial, the use and misuse of the Freedom of Information Act, and whether the UK libel laws need to be reformed.
Several of the questions came from students who write for Nouse, the student magazine. It turned out that the chairman, and everyone on the panel apart from Simon, had worked on Nouse when they were undergraduates at York. The main advice was that the commercial needs of a publication are almost always in conflict with the editorial needs, but nowadays you can publish very easily on the web. So the suggestion was that the more controversial stories would be more likely to be seen outside the confines of a funded magazine...
After the debate, drinks and canapes were served in the foyer.