From primary school I had wanted to pursue only one career and that was to be a journalist. It was the way I started my working life and something I will never regret. But the report about the behaviour of the BBC in relation to the interview with Princess Diana will cast a shadow over the profession today.
Every occupation has both good and bad in it, that is not the issue for me. The issue is that nothing was done about concerns that were raised at the time, and that it has taken more than 25 years to reach a conclusion.
The phone hacking scandal left some media saying that is the tabloids and not us. But it is clear now that more needs to be done to uphold ethical standards within journalism and that everyone needs to be part of the solution. If the BBC can be found to have behaved in this way then why couldn’t it happen anywhere else?
As a young reporter I remember going for an interview for a role and being asked ‘how far would to go to get a story?’ and then being given a set of scenarios. Needless to say I didn’t get the job. In my years in PR I have seen the good and bad in journalism. At its best it has campaigned for the underdog and got results, it has exposed corruption and started conversations about key changes needed in society. But at its worst I have seen the families of victims of crime hounded and people left in turmoil.
Today is not a day to point the finger at the BBC. They will have to work out how best to respond to the situation and start to rebuild trust and confidence. But for those working in the media and PR it is a day to reflect on what more can be done to ensure that standards are being upheld.
There is no surprise that polls show trust in journalists is lower than that given to politicians. Every set of statistics shows the same thing. In the year after Covid-19 emerged journalism has been essential not just to hold those in power to account but to highlight the situation as it developed. This is the moment when journalism can start to work to redefine the image that it has with the public. At the same time there is still much work to do to change perceptions about the work of public relations. What matters most from this point is that we all take responsibility to demonstrate the highest professional standards and work to change perceptions.