True lies: panel debates ethics of journalism

Video: Feride Sahin and Sophianne Morrissey

Media professionals discussed the boundaries and ethical issues of truth in journalism at a panel debate at Goldsmiths on Thursday.

Chair Daisy Asquith invited former BBC reporter and Goldsmiths senior lecturer Linda Lewis, film editor Paddy Bird and former news photographer Brian Harris to join the talk on March 10.

 The panel shared their personal experience to address the following issue: can you tamper with the truth to tell a good story?

 Lewis said: “I was told once ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

 “I don’t see television or radio as distorting the truth but rather honest mediums because you’re actually filming people doing something.”

Many famous photographs have later proven to be lies such as Robert Doisneau’s Le Baiser de l’Hotel de Ville or Robert Capa’s photograph of a falling soldier.

 Harris based his speech on several examples, saying: “If you start mixing a small lie, then it becomes a bigger lie and I think that’s wrong.”

 Daisy Asquith, documentary filmmaker and a Goldsmiths senior lecturer, explained her take on the issue. “Documentaries have more of an artistic freedom,” she said.

 “You take responsibility for telling your own version of the truth. I think that’s probably the way around the ethical truth claim problem. There is no absolute one truth.”

Ethical limits were discussed throughout the talk alongside what can be considered as truth. Bird argues: “I think it’s open to interpretation.

 “You do have time factors, budgetary factors and trying to summarise the meaning of something in one shot that kind of visualise doesn’t automatically happen.”

 The talk left the subject open to debate with a Q&A where students had a chance to express their own thoughts.

 Asquith emphasised the importance of subjectivity in this debate and said: “The only thing you have is your own integrity.”

By Feride Sahin and Sophianne Morrissey 

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