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March 23, 2012

Ordinary journalists, have your say about the lessons from Leveson: 26 March, City Uni, 6.30pm

By Dominic Ponsford1

Will the post Leveson settlement for the press be another stitch up between owners, the government and a few very powerful editors?

I fear it might be. That’s why ordinary journalists need to make their views and voices heard and why Press Gazette has organised a debate on Monday, 26 March, in association with City University called: The best of the times or the worst of times? What are the lessons from Leveson and the hacking scandal (sign up here, starts 6.30pm).

We’ve also organised it because we believe the solution to issues raised by hacking and Leveson needs to go far beyond rearranging the plumbing of the regulatory system. Change needs to come from journalists themselves.

In my view, that means some need to take a more professional view of what they are doing and sign up to some basic ethical principles which no-one who calls themselves a journalist should breach.

Monday’s event will be led by a panel of experts, but the hope is that this will also be a public meeting where all those who care deeply about British journalism can have their say.

The panelists are:

Former chief reporter of the News of the World Neville Thurlbeck

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One of the most successful tabloid reporters of his generation – Thurlbeck is a two-time British Press Awards scoop of the year winner. He is currently one of a number of journalists who have been questioned and released on police bail as part of the Weeting Inquiry into phone-hacking and is also fighting legal battle against News International for unfair dismissal. He was arrested for a second time and accused of witness intimidation earlier this month because he wrote a blog post about News International general manager Will Lewis. Thurlbeck won’t be able to talk about hacking for legal reasons – but he will give some very forthright views about how he thinks tabloid journalism should change and modernise.

Mary-Ellen Field

Field was one of the ‘civilian’ victims of the hacking scandal. Her life was turned upside down for no other reason than the fact she worked for supermodel Elle Macpherson. Branding expert Field was accused of leaking stories to the press when her phone was hacked by the News of the World and she ended up losing  her job. Although a critic of the press, she is also an advocate for the kind of brave inquiring journalism let her voice be heard and helped her get justice.

Independent editor Chris Blackhurst

One of the few national newspaper editors to out candidly (other than when compelled to do so by a Leveson summons)  about the ethical challenges faced by the industry in the wake of the hacking scandal. Blackhurst has said he favoured moves to a GMC-style system where journalists who make serious transgressions can be “struck off”. The Independent is one of the few national newspaper groups to have a blemish free record when it comes to hacking and blagging.

National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet

The NUJ has been strident in its condemnation of not just hacking, but also proposals to create a new accreditation system for professional journalists put forward by Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. It remains to be seen whether ordinary journalists will have any representation on the new press regulator. Groups such as the NUJ were excluded from any involvement in the PCC, which was run purely by the press owners.

If you would like to take part in the debate online in advance and on the night – please do so using the Twitter hastag #levesonlessons.

Click on this link to sign up for Monday’s debate which is open to all. It starts at 6.30pm and there will be networking drinks afterwards kindly supplied by City University journalism department.

The debate is being held at the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre, which is the main City University campus. Here is a map with directons about how to get there.


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