On Monday 11 December 2017 the LJW held their Human Rights Day Seminar on the subject: “Freedom of the Press – is it under attack?”
REPORT BY YVONNE BRENT, CHAIR MEMBERSHIP AND LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE
Gillian welcomed members of the League to the Seminar and was grateful for their support as London and the surrounding areas had been covered with a blanket of snow.
Ned Temko, our speaker, is an American journalist and newspaper editor who has worked much of his life in the United Kingdom. His articles appear mainly in The Observer newspaper and focus on political and social issues. He has previously written for The Guardian and was editor of the Jewish Chronicle from 1990 to 2005. Ned Temko is a regular panelist on the BBC World programme Dateline London and BBC TV’s Question Time. Mr. Temko now focuses most of his work in writing books but still writes for the Jewish Quarterly.
He began with praise for June Jacobs, who was unable to attend, whom he described as
‘Guts and Grace’. She had been very supportive of him during his time as editor of the
Jewish Chronicle and he regarded her very highly because of the work she had done in
bringing many topics to the fore.
He discussed the reasons why the UK had voted for Brexit and Americans had voted for
Donald Trump. He felt that people voted in anger to show that they only had control
through the ballot box. Brexit wasn’t necessarily about Britain and the European Union.
Donald Trump wasn’t really about his policies or the polls. A large number of voters in the US didn’t believe everything Donald Trump promised but it was about how they could hit the establishment. No-one thought about what would come next. However, Donald Trump has given a new lease of life to serious news and, whilst he says that reporters are the enemies of the people, people of beginning to read newspapers
He saw the press as a victim of the internet as most people now read the news on their
iphones, not realising that information can be doctored. He felt that news via such
mediums such as Facebook kill any discussion as your ‘friends’ on Facebook will usually
agree with your opinions. This way of receiving our news has had a dramatic effect on newspapers, as they rely heavily on advertising, but advertisers are now more likely to put their logos on the internet as they will be able to reach more potential customers.
As newspapers have lost advertising revenue, they have needed to cut costs and this has usually been by no longer supporting foreign correspondents. There was a time when a newspaper would have a correspondent in a foreign country for two or three years, but this is no longer the case. Mr Temko lived in various countries during his career as a journalist and learned to speak the language of that country and know the people. He therefore had a better understanding of the political situation of that country.
As an American, he found it strange that the UK press is affiliated to various political
parties, e.g. the Guardian is a supporter of the Labour Party whilst the Telegraph supports the Conservatives. Newspapers are once again gaining more readership as, in the main, he felt that serious newspapers gave a better perspective of the news. However, when we read news stories, we must decide for ourselves what we believe and he ended by saying that we all need to read newspapers and, if possible, read different newspapers so that we can get a rounded view.
Mr Temko then took questions. They ranged from topics such as why young people in
university seem to believe everything they read on the internet and don’t seem to question and debate important issues, to the big question of freedom of speech. He said that it is OK for someone to say that they hated another person from a different religion or culture but it was not OK for someone to incite a violent action. This is why we have laws on incitement.
He ended the seminar saying that the job of newspapers is not to go after individuals but to build a case on facts and to analyse without giving their personal opinion.
Ann Godfrey thanked Mr Temko for a very interesting morning.