Wisdom makes good journalists

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Socrates was probably the first investigative journalist. He is also one of the greatest philosophers as relevant and inspiring today as he was 2500 thousand years ago. According to the Oracle of Delphi he was also the wisest. Accused of'being irreverent to the gods and corrupting the youth of Athens' he told the court at his trial that like a 'gadfly' his mission was to engage his fellow-citizens in debate on matters of virtue, truth and wisdom. He was sentenced to death by hemlock for his troubles. In his closing speech to the jurors he reprimands his fellow-citizens for caring more about money and reputation than about moralityand knowledge: '' why do you care so much about laying up the greatest amount of money and honour and reputation, and so little about wisdom and truth'? Are you not ashamed of this?' That would be a good question to ask the chief executives of News Corporations. Since Socrates, many good and worthy of the name journalists have followed in his footsteps. Some like legendary US journalist Edward R. Murrow who took on Joseph McCarthy and won at a time when all walked in fear of McCarthy, therespected Australian journalist Chris Masters who exposed wholesale police corruption in Queensland, and two women journalists, the Irish Veronica Guerin and the Russian Anna Politkovskaya, who like Socrates paid with their lives for informing the public. Recently, we have the Guardian journalists who exposed the News of the World corruption. These journalists, whether consciously or not, shared Socrates' unshakeable conviction that truth is the bloodline of a free democracy. This highlights the important self-regulatory ethical role that the media itself provides. The News of the World scandal by extreme contrast has shown us that very bad things happen when journalists turn from seeking truth to engaging secretly in crime and corruption, putting profit above propriety. Rather than engaging in the dissemination of information that is the legitimate and expected role of the media, the News of the World engaged in stealing information from unsuspecting citizens. It was both illegal and unethical. Worse still, and this is when it becomes unconscionable, it was ethically corrupt.
Original languageEnglish
Type1, 196 wd article, published in Campus Review, 25th July, 2011
PublisherCampus Review
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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