People, not technology, take irresponsible actions. But it is becoming hard to overlook the power social media has to propel the news agenda and lend spurious significance to the depraved prejudices of bigots such as  Terry Jones, the Florida Pastor who threatened to burn copies of the Qur'an.  This cautionary tale analyses the route by which an inflammatory suggestion posted on a Facebook group grew to be a global story that threatens lives and involves the Presidents of Indonesia and the USA. People have died because a few morons abused their constitutional right to free speech. There will always be morons. I hope there will always be free speech. Given the existence of both in democratic societies, it is worth contemplating how dramatically the growth of unmediated media has accelerated the spread of absurd ideas. It is equally important to consider the role traditional media can play in amplifying the impact of woeful prejudice.  Have ethics ever been more important in journalism? Have they ever been less prevalent? Discuss...

    

Comments

Hmmm. Not sure about this. Why polnt the finger at 'unmediated' blogs when the amplification to a global story in this case seems to have come from mainstream outlets including The Guardian and CNN? Are you suggesting that blogs should refrain from reporting, or repeating, points of fact just in case a more reputable outlet picks it up and turns it into an international story? The outrage, surely, should be directed against Pastor Jones, not those who have accurately reported what he planned to do.

Ian Reeves is head of the Centre for Journalism

I'm not suggesting any solution, Ian, nor do I intend to point and I have already acknowledged the role of mainstream media.  I am observing a modern phenomenon and reflecting upon it. If there is any conclusion to be drawn I suggest that it is only this: that professional journalists should consider carefully whether a blog speaks for a genuine community of opinion before lending it the aura of respectability that  coverage in the mainstream media affords.  There are many more stories that could be news than should be news. Our profession and the representative democracy it exists to inform face a new challenge. It merits ethical contemplation.      

Sometimes it is hard to love unmediated media