I’m late to the party on the debate over the journalist’s role, provoked in part by John Stewart’s appearance on CNN’s Crossfire. Having never seen Crossfire, and only seen the Daily Show a couple of times, I didn’t really understand the passions this engendered.
Far more interesting to me was a debate between John Humphries and John Lloyd on BBC Radio 4’s The Message (you can listen to it here — from 19′ into the programme — until, I think, the end of the week). Humphries is famous for his pugnacious interviews on Radio 4’s Today programme, while Lloyd, editor of the Financial Times Magazine, has recently written a book decrying the current state of journalism in Britain.
I found myself siding completely with Humphries. In the brief time he has on his morning news programme, he has an excellent track record of pushing and prodding interviewees to get to the heart of the matter.
Listen to both the Crossfire brouhaha and The Message, and you get a sense as well of the yawning divide in the debate between the US and Britain. In the US, the problem is that journalists aren’t encouraging debate or probing the issues. Here the controversy is whether (some) journalists are being too vigorous about pursuing the issues.
John Martinkus, an Australian seized in Baghdad on Saturday and subsequently released, may have been saved because his captors googled his name to check his story.
I tried it and returned 785 hits for him, which make it clear he’s a journalist. For someone like me with a weblog, there’s even more evidence of identity. Today googling Lance Knobel returns 13,000 hits. Not that I’m planning to go anywhere near harm’s way.
I’d be willing to wager that today’s most significant news has nothing to do with the US presidential election, Iraq or anything else likely to be found on newspaper front pages. No, it’s about a new technique for delivering vaccines that don’t need refrigeration.
BBC: “A new technology developed in the UK could revolutionise vaccine delivery by eliminating the need for refrigeration.”
Why is this important? In much of the developing world, the lack of refrigeration means that many vaccines become unusable because of high temperatures or contamination.
Cambridge Biostability, which developed the new technique, reckons that up to 10 million more children each year can be vaccinated within current budgets.