The con­tours of a free press

Award-win­ning U.S. jour­nal­ist speaks on me­dia ethics


On the oc­ca­sion of World Press Free­dom Day, the U.S. Con­sulate Gen­eral in Chennai hosted an event at Loyola-ICAM Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing and Tech­nol­ogy on Wed­nes­day. The event was steered by award-win­ning re­porter and me­dia spe­cial­ist from the United States Alison Bethel McKen­zie.

Dur­ing her key­note ad­dress, Ms. McKen­zie delved into the is­sue of eth­i­cal jour­nal­ism in to­day’s fast-mov­ing me­dia land­scape. “We are blessed to live in ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­ter­est­ing times when we as journalist­s have the ca­pac­ity to share stories in new and com­pelling ways, as well as in­cred­i­ble tools that al­low us to do so,” she said.

Panel dis­cus­sion

The ad­dress was fol­lowed by a panel dis­cus­sion at­tended by se­nior journalist­s from the city who talked about the role of the me­dia in ad­vanc­ing peace­ful, just and in­clu­sive so­ci­eties. The speak­ers while agree­ing on the fact that the in­ter­net had en­hanced op­por­tu­ni­ties to ac­cess and share knowl­edge, ex­am­ined the is­sue of whether tra­di­tional me­dia ethics are suit­able for the dig­i­tal sphere.

“No free­dom is free. To help peo­ple chal­lenge as­sump­tions and make in­formed de­ci­sions, the me­dia needs to ad­here to a reg­u­la­tory frame­work,” ar­gued Ms. McKen­zie. “Only in this way can we har­ness its po­ten­tial as a true cat­a­lyst of jus­tice,” she added.

With fake news be­com­ing an an en­tity dif­fi­cult to ig­nore, an­other ma­jor con­cern raised by the panel was the im­por­tance of forg­ing news con­sumers ca­pa­ble of dis­cern­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween fact and fic­tion.

“There’s no way to stop the phe­nom­e­non,” ar­gued V. Su­dar­shan, Se­nior As­so­ciate Edi­tor, The Hindu. “To avoid get­ting a nar­row pic­ture, read­ers would bet­ter ex­plore a va­ri­ety of op­tions and ques­tion the cred­i­bil­ity of the con­tent,” he said.

Ms. McKen­zie echoed the state­ment, adding that qual­ity jour­nal­ism is part of the pathway to en­vi­sion­ing a fully demo­cratic In­dia. “Free­dom of the press is not just free­dom of the press, but it's ben­e­fi­cial to the com­mu­nity as a whole,” she added.

K. Vaidyanath­an, edi­tor of Di­na­mani, and Yagna Balaji, edi­tor of DT Next, also spoke.


Words of wis­dom: Alison Bethel McKen­zie in­ter­acts with stu­dents at Loyola-ICAM Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing and Tech­nol­ogy.

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