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Journalism under threat

Posted 20/07/2011 by KatieJ

The News of the World was never top of my personal reading pile, but its demise is nevertheless a sad day for British journalism. The country’s best selling tabloid newspaper, NOTW is 168 years old and sold more than 2.5m copies every Sunday, according to a report on CNN. Closure of the paper has also left 200 employees without jobs – even though it isd likely that none of them had anything to do with the earlier alleged phone-hacking practices that appear to have precipitated the crisis.

But industry hecklers keen to vent their spleen should be wary of tarring all journalists, or even journalism, with the same brush. While no one could ever condone some of the underhand practices purportedly used by a tiny handful of former NOTW employees, recent events such as the global financial crisis and the revelations surrounding MPs expenses, for example, have shown that there is a real need for responsible investigative journalism to root out some of the underlying corruption.

Scientific journalism has not been immune to some of the pressures affecting other parts of the media. As elsewhere, a drive to publish more content more cheaply online, as well as pressure for more stories more quickly, has already threatened quality in some areas, and led to cutbacks. All too often the same stories are merely regurgitated from one part of the media to another. Science itself, however, relies on hard data that takes times and effort to accumulate, and even longer to review and corroborate. Facts cannot as easily be discounted as hearsay.

The real stories, though, often take a big more digging – a trawl through older papers, in-depth discussions with researchers as well as with other independent experts without any axe to grind. Finding the ‘hot potato’ takes effort and perseverance, and often just as importantly it takes time – which for ever more hard-pressed journalists, as this one can confirm, is in increasingly short supply.

Cath O’Driscoll - Deputy editor

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