Why journalists have sold out

The real reason why our media has become so unreliable.

Journalists are all too aware of freelancers and interns competing for their jobs, a contest deliberately exploited by their bosses. Insecure in their careers, no one was ever going to argue or debate a questionable editorial decision. Silence and compliance were the inevitable markers of a frightened workforce.

Journalism has become a dog eat dog world. Editors and bosses enjoyed this fighting amongst colleagues. They’d set us off like wild dogs against each other. They thought it was all a great game to keep everyone on their toes. They’d light the touch paper, sit back and watch them kill each other. It was relentless, you could never rest.”

The ideal of the media holding power to account,” said Richard Peppiatt, “when you’re on the coal face [front line]—it just goes out the window. Some buckle up and get on with it, some leave, some embrace it and enjoy the competition. Some like winning at all costs. You get the front page and, if that involves manipulating the facts or lying, some don’t mind doing it.”

Working for Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Star and the Express newspapers, Peppiatt watched as “chronic underinvestment in journalism allowed a corrosive culture to fester. I remember one shift there being just myself and two other reporters to write the whole of a national newspaper. It was so bad we had to use pseudonyms to make it appear there were more of us.”

Notes from the book, Heffernan, Margaret. “A Bigger Prize.”

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