Leveson & Press Integrity: What have we learned?

Press Release:

A public discussion at the University of York will look at the ethical and political issues raised by the Leveson Inquiry and debate what we have learned.

Two expert witnesses from the inquiry, Professor Sue Mendus, from York’s Department of Politics and Professor Jennifer Hornsby, from the Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London, will discuss their further reflections on the issues raised by the examination into press ethics.

In the chair will be Ed Braman, from York’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television, a former Commissioning Editor for News and Current Affairs at Channel 4. The event on Monday, 13 May is hosted by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and York’s Department of Philosophy.

In July 2011, the Prime Minister announced a two-part inquiry to investigate the role of the press and the police in the phone-hacking scandal. Lord Justice Leveson was appointed Chairman of the Inquiry.

The first part of the Inquiry examined culture, practices and ethics of the press and, in particular, the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians. Lord Leveson published his report on Part 1 of the Inquiry in November 2012.

‘Leveson and press integrity’, organised by Dr Rachael Wiseman and Dr Amber Carpenter, marks the first public event in a larger project the two York philosophers are putting together on Integrity in Contemporary Life.

Dr Wiseman said: “The Inquiry touched upon vital questions about the value and aims of a free press, its relation to free speech and a free market, which the Inquiry itself could not examine in proper depth.”

Dr Carpenter added: “Thinking through these issues is crucial to being able to think clearly about the press in a democracy. We hope to be able to start a local public discussion of these themes here.”

‘Leveson and press integrity: what have we learned?’ takes place on Monday, 13 May in the Berrick Saul Building. There will be a screening of Professor Hornsby and Professor Mendus’s evidence in the Treehouse at 5pm and the discussion will be held in the Bowland Auditorium at 6.30pm. No booking is required.

For enquiries about the screening, discussion, or the Integrity in Contemporary Life project, please contact Dr Rachael Wiseman, rachael.wiseman@york.ac.uk or Dr Amber Carpenter, amber.carpenter@york.ac.uk.

Some Questions & Issues

  1. What is the press for? What is a free press for? If it should be for the dissemination of relevant, useful, important information, what are the criteria of relevance, utility, importance? Or is it for the protection from power of propaganda? Or does it serve an expressive function?
  2. From what is a free press free? From coercion, from political influence, from power influence?
  3. What are the relations and tensions between free press, free speech, and a free market? Is the former necessary for the latter? Can the latter undermine former?
  4. Incentives: what are the ethical implications of the conflict between the demand to make money for your employer and the demand to adhere to professional standards of journalism?
  5. Does ethical living demand consistency of character across public and private domains? Does modern professionalism allow this?
  6. How does the distinction between public and private relate to the different standards for, or nature of, press freedom of speech and private freedom of speech?
  7. Can the ‘megaphone effect’ be defined? What does it come down to? Not merely how many people will hear you. So, what does make the difference? Why should it be illegal for a newspaper, with a rather small circulation, to say things which it is not illegal for a person who many will hear?
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