There is no better time to see what price gives for the Reuters claim to “independence, impartiality, integrity and freedom from bias”, one of the more preposterous lines in media land when seen from the perspective of a majority of the world’s people.
I swallowed this line somewhat uncritically during the early part of my 11 years there before realising that the demands of Reuters’s core clients for timely business and uncritical market intelligence would win out every time over any fluffy journalism ideals that you might care to mention.
One small example. I have verbatim shorthand notes of a conversation I had with a senior Reuters editor in 2004 about my proposal to morph the world trade correspondent post in Geneva into one giving a broader, deeper take on globalisation in all its bitterly contested glory. I was told nice idea, fat chance, by someone whom I actually rather liked. That person said the Reuters editorial budget for the year could stretch to the creation of a half-post for additional foreign exchange market reporting in Tokyo.
That same budget did stretch, albeit a couple of years later, to the creation of an online news bureau correspondent in Second Life, the rather absurd online game. Thankfully, that was after I had leapt on the chance of voluntary redundancy, though the verb “to leap” may not be strong enough.
There are some great journalists at Reuters, in print, video and pictures, and some great former ones who got killed in pursuit of their work. They are, or were, far better journalists than I could ever hope to be. Their organisation, however, is not the unblemished force for good that it likes to project as its image. It fails miserably to bring the independence, impartiality, integrity and freedom from bias that is needed to throw clear light on the world’s problems. That, in the very least, would demand unrelenting analysis and criticism of the issues presented by global capitalism and the holders of capital, most of whom are Reuters clients past or present. It can claim to do a better job than many other media organisations but that’s hardly difficult.
I will not join the mourning party if Reuters falls to the Canadians, reserving my journalistic condolences instead for The New Standard, which closed last Friday. Brian Dominick, one of the five members of the TNS collective, talks here about the reasons for their demise on Pacifica Radio’s uprising programme.