The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

The paradoxes of Christopher Hitchens

By Nicholas Wapshott
The views expressed are his own.

By now, Christopher Hitchens, who has died from esophageal cancer after weeks of radiation treatment at the Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, will know whether there is or is not a God. If there is an after-life, we can expect Hitch to arrive in combative mood. His strident atheism, like many of the views that contributed to his reputation as America’s most gifted polemicist, was in its way a peculiar act of faith.

Hitch was paradoxical to the end. In his final piece for Vanity Fair, the magazine that brought out the best of his artful argumentative style matched to his almost flippant name-dropping erudition, he confessed, between searing pain and narcotic oblivion, to wanting “to be fully conscious and awake, in order to ‘do’ death in the active and not the passive sense.” It left some wondering whether he was sharpening his wits to meet God on the other side.

But then Christopher liked to have everything both ways. A bisexual, he enjoyed putting his liberal men friends to the test by kissing them smack on the lips in front of their wives. He lived half his life as a proud and passionate man of the Left before, in middle age, flipping to what he had until then reviled as the dark side of the political spectrum. He was above all, perhaps, an attention seeker, a born contrarian who desperately wanted to become a professional controversialist. In that, he spectacularly succeeded.

But his route to stardom was often at the expense of those who befriended him or had done him enormous favors. It was with great sadness, but little surprise, that friends of Anthony Howard, the distinguished editor of The New Statesman who gave Hitch his first and most important breaks as a writer, read Christopher’s sour demolition of his old and generous mentor, whom he ridiculed for, of all things, his mundane prose style. The intention, it seems, was no more than to take a prominent leftist scalp while showing he owed his success to no one.

Progress, but women journalists not home free



Linda Kay is a former sportswriter with the Chicago Tribune (and the first woman to write sports for the paper), an associate professor and chair of the journalism department at Concordia University in Montreal. She is author of a forthcoming book called “The Sweet Sixteen” about a group of groundbreaking women journalists in Canada. The opinions expressed are her own. Thomson Reuters is hosting a live blog on March 8, 2011, to mark International Women’s Day.

My students are often surprised to learn that one hundred years ago, women were working as journalists in Canada. According to the 1911 census, some 70 women across the country were categorized as “journalists, editors and reporters.”

In defence of the BBC


cathcart- Brian Cathcart is professor of journalism at Kingston University and was specialist adviser to the Select Committee inquiry. The opinions expressed are his own.-

One problem with the current debate about the BBC is that it is being held on too low a level, so the result is likely to be needless petty miseries.

from Reuters Editors:

Are we now too speedy for our own good?


Last week I was told that Reuters has lost its ethical bearings. You've sacrificed the sacred tenet of accuracy by rushing to publish information without checking if it is true. Your credibility has suffered, the value of your brand will wither and the service you offer to clients has been devalued, I heard.

It was a meaty accusation, especially as it came in the midst of a debate on ethics in journalism held at the London home of ThomsonReuters, the parent of the Reuters news organisation. The charge came from former Reuters journalists and a senior member of the trustees body that monitors Reuters compliance with its core ethical principles.

Past and present: a correspondent in Iraq


Tim Cocks-Tim Cocks is a Reuters correspondent in Iraq.-

This month we reported that the number of civilians dying violent deaths in Iraq had hit a fresh low since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion — about 125 for September.

Sounds like a lot, but for a country that only two years ago was seeing dozens of bodies pile up in the streets each day from tit-for-tat sectarian killing, it was definitely progress.

from For the Record:

Dim view of media? Try more transparency


dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

This week brought more distressing news for journalists, as a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found the U.S. public more critical than ever of the accuracy and independence of the media.

Free may be a radical price, but is it progressive?


padraig_reidy-Padraig Reidy is news editor at Index on Censorship. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Mainstream consumer media is, it is agreed, in trouble. The idea of paying for one or two newspapers a day is now confined, it seems, to quaintly old-fashioned types who boast of their ignorance of the Internet, or business who actually need the information in the pages of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Don’t confuse good journalism with the grubby


john_kampfner- John Kampfner is chief executive of Index on Censorship and former editor of the New Statesman. His new book, “Freedom for Sale”, will be published by Simon and Schuster in September. The opinions expressed are his own. -

The news could not have come at a worse time for free speech campaigners. Revelations that private detectives have been paid large sums by the tabloid press to hack into the mobile phones and other records of public figures will cause damage to the newspaper at the heart of the practice, the “News of the World”.

Should journalists break the law? Yes if need be!


-nicholas-jonesNicholas Jones is the author of Trading Information: Leaks, Lies and Tip-offs (Politico’s, 2006). He is a member of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. The opinions expressed are his own.-

When searching for news and checking facts reporters often have to bend the rules and possibly break the law. But through its purchase of confidential mobile phone messages the “News of the World” has blackened the reputation of British journalism.

from For the Record:

A is for abattoir; Z is for ZULU: All in the Handbook of Journalism


dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

The first entry is abattoir (not abbatoir); the last is ZULU (a term used by Western military forces to mean GMT).