Media Watch's Jonathan Holmes launches an important new book by Associate Professor Anne Dunn

14 June 2011

Despite Thursday evening being bitingly cold, a warm and inviting Co-op Bookshop welcomed guests through its doors, with the offer of a glass of wine and an insightful book event, the launch of Associate Professor Anne Dunn's Media, Markets and Morals. Associate Professor Dunn, a former journalist across print, radio and television media and valued member of the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney, co-wrote the book with Edward H Spence, Andrew Alexandra, and Aaron Quinn.

And who better to launch a book largely about the morals behind the profession of journalism than Media Watch (ABC TV) presenter Jonathan Holmes? Jonathan began his talk by giving a fitting example of the ways in which the media can misconstrue information, by explaining, "Imagine my surprise, last Monday morning, to discover from The Australian's Media section that I'm not only launching Media, Markets and Morals, but I helped to write it".

Jonathan then gave an insightful description of the lengths the staff at Media Watch go to in order to avoid making mistakes in their critiques of unsound journalism, before turning to critique the book at hand. He said, "The authors of Media, Markets and Morals argue that accuracy is much more fundamental to journalism than a mere matter of reputation or even credibility. Inaccuracy isn't just 'bad journalism' in the sense that we might say a collapsing chair is the result of bad workmanship; inaccuracy is bad journalism in that it's actually immoral, unethical, a betrayal of universal values."

A major theme of the book, which Holmes spoke about at length in his speech, is the debate about media outlets and journalists holding responsibility as conveyers of knowledge and information to the public, as opposed to relaying information driven by a profit means. He explains that while most journalists believe they 'ought' to tell the truth, many rather sensationalize reports and perhaps feel it is not in their job description to be accurate and objective. But he highlights that the authors argue, "Unlike the carpet manufacturer, the making of a profit is not the ultimate end of the 'media' organization."

Although Jonathan Holmes, as we would expect, looked at Media, Markets and Morals with a discerning eye, his overall sentiment towards the book was that of praise. "Media, Markets and Morals has some very pertinent things to say about the fundamental ethical underpinnings of the journalistic trade - or 'profession' as the authors flatteringly call it", he states.

"As you'd expect of a book written by a team that includes philosophers and experienced journalists, Media, Markets and Morals forces us to think more carefully and more deeply about what the ethics of our profession are, what their basis is, and what sort of conduct they should lead us to adopt…And that has got to be, in anyone's ethical code, a Good Thing", he concludes.

Co-author Dr Edward Spence, a senior lecturer in moral philosophy and professional ethics at Charles Sturt University, then said a few words from the philosophical angle, most memorably claiming that Socrates was the original investigative journalist. After arguing passionately in favour of journalists seeing their moral responsibility as paramount to their role in society, he passed back to Associate Professor Anne Dunn, who wrapped up by thanking all involved in the launch.

Media, Markets and Morals is available now through the Co op Bookshop on campus.

To see some further photographs from the launch, please visit the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Facebook page.

Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: 02 9351 2208

Email: 0f340d321d1d4e34293a771121323e34485f000f43490847