Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Institute impartiality

“Unacceptable” is one word that has been used to describe the Institute’s recent appointment of former UKIP head of communications Mark Croucher as its president.

Since 1884 the Institute has championed broadcast media and press impartiality. So why is Croucher’s persona viewed by some as incongruous?

One answer might be today’s strangely politicised global news media environment. Mass proliferation of so-called citizen journalists via social media has started to blur boundaries that once distinguished publishable from unpublishable authorship. Though proponents of this new influx may or may not be in denial about the Institute’s role as standard bearer for the industry, its status as guardian of media practitioners’ professional interests is a reality that very few feel the need to publicly repudiate.

Xenophobia

Other answers are evident in definitions of xenophobia expressed by leading scholars in postcolonial thought, new nation building and transcultural identity. Educational psychologist Oksana Yakushko describes it as ‘a form of attitudinal, affective and behavioural prejudice’. Amercian ethnologist Verena Stolcke prefers the words ‘hostility towards strangers’. South African politics of belonging academic Francis Nyamnjoh’s choice of an ‘intense dislike, hatred or fear of others’ is similarly multi-layered. All three of these terms could be used to describe pre-judgemental comments that have been circulating about the Institute’s newly-elected leader.

Whatever our ethnicity, gender, background or profession, one of Britain’s internationally respected strengths is her commitment to balanced, facts-driven print and broadcast media output. For years millions of Britons have felt privately repulsed by insufficiently representative party political machine-driven campaigning. This reversible contemporary malaise is fast becoming synonymous with the ideological toothlessness that is producing a largely self-serving political class.

Our longest serving constitutional monarch Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy of political neutrality as head of our uniquely international Commonwealth of Nations serves as an important point of reference. In a troubled world where more original, pan-representative thinking is required, perhaps it is the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s clarion call for a more imaginative European Union Referendum debate that strikes the right note. His words may also be interpreted as guidance to anyone questioning the legitimacy of the Institute’s newly-elected president: “There is no fixed Christian view on this [the EU referendum]. Those who want to leave the EU should set out what Britain would be like after leaving in a variety of respects, including its international attitude and its values.”

 Liam Gallimore-Wells