Journalistic and Media Issues

EthoPlasìn is an Educational Institution with a World Civic Wellness Vocation. As such its objectives are closely related to the influence that the press or the media can have on the civic behavior of citizens. Their influence is very powerful and could be much more positive. Unfortunately it is too often very negative. Their activity is eminently related to the civic objectives of the EthoPlasìn. In conformity with its firm policy of full transparency, EthoPlasìn wants to let potential members know openly the related objectives it will fight for, and strongly lobby for in all circumstances, with all democratic means available.

Few very simple reforms of common sense, with no expense, can do a lot to help protect democracy and the civic life of citizens.

Background - Many journalists today do not receiveBookPenBlue a serious professional formation. Many do publish a lot without having even a university degree, nor even sometimes a technical school diploma of any kind related directly to their work as journalists. Directors of newspapers certainly try to control the quality of their work, often before it is published, but very often fail to do so correctly because of the frenetic work life they have and the numerous urgencies, or concurrent priorities, they have to face. Certainly, any kind of censorship by outside bodies prior to publication is simply out of question. Consequently, many journalist end-up publishing stuff not factually substantiated, totally biased for a particular reason, political or not, often very offensive and unfairly image-destructive, if not pieces of total inutility or complete crap. Unfortunately, this is what sometimes sells better and 'makes copies', and directors are thus often lenient on letting a lot of it go to the press. Too much of it! Either we just 'let go', as per the dominant nihilistic mentality of our times, loosing a lot of time screening the crap out, as newspaper readers, suffering terrible frustration from it, or we attempt to do something about it. We should not allow just about anything to go online, or on press, like it is pretty much the case today, without a better pre-evaluation, and such pre-evaluation has nothing, but absolutely nothing to do with censorship, just common sense, seriousness and a desire to serve citizens the best way possible. EthoPlasìn members should attempt to make some suggestions, like the ones below, and lobby for them as much as possible by all democratic means.

  1. Formation of Journalists - Very similarly to what has happened to the formation oTeacherf teachers, as seen in our page on Teaching Issues, has also happened to the formation of journalists, over the last 30 years. Employers have started to be slack and hire growing numbers of journalists who have never received any formal formation as such. Publishers tend to often hire, maybe too often, aggressive and brilliant young men and women because of the 'attention' they can attract in terms of audience, but without realizing the damage they can also do subliminally because of lack of professional formation. This nihilistic trend, if not stopped, should at least be better regulated and controlled. Such self-invented journalists, in particular in the multimedia, appearing like spontaneous mushrooms, should be required by law to attend a special center of formation for at least one year, before getting confirmation and full normal pay for their level. In the public media, financed by public funds, they should certainly never get any special salary or bonus above average pay without that year of training, only because they are supposedly 'brilliant natural audience makers'. That compulsory 'special year' of formation for such self-invented journalists could concentrate highly on aspects these mushroom journalists would probably not have ever thought about on their own so far, like their potentially destructive (or constructive) 'Subliminal Influence' on the civic conduct, and the quality of the language expression used by the general population.

  2. Subliminal Bad Example - The press, and the media, TV in particular, show an incredible amount of subliminal bad example influencing most negatively the civic life of children in particular, but also of adults to some extent. Media are guilty of this in both publicity, printed or live, and regular multimedia programs or written printed articles. If smoking for example is something 'bad' to the point we prohibit it firmly in a growing number of places, as an ascertained major cause of cancer, why should we allow it in publicity and soap operas associated with beautiful women and particularly handsome men enjoying themselves smoking cigarettes, possibly even just after having had god sex? Should not this be entirely prohibited or proactively avoided? If we still allow publicity legally, should we not at least allow it only in plain contexts not associated in any way to pleasure, success or beauty? Should not drinking alcohol be treated the same way? Should not unpunished criminality in feature films and TV programs be treated this way when not dealing with reporting documented history where this may have happened? Should not broadcasting companies, TV stations, magazines or newspapers  be sued, or at least possibly punishable under some law in such cases of particularly gross negative subliminal influence? This is a particularly difficult issue, but to start with, there should at least be the institution of a formal 'crime' in our criminal code called: Subliminal Bad Influence. Then we could see how the jurisprudence would develop and, in the end, we would probably exclude quickly at least the most guilty media items from this point of view from our printed press and TV screens. This would not be censorship but, by the same token, a strong invitation to be careful on the part of the media and to take their responsibilities on the possible negative consequences of what they publish, explicitly or implicitly. Journalists or multimedia producers should certainly not be less responsible for their actions than any other citizen, rather the opposite, as contrary to the simple street citizen, these categories can have an incredible influence on others, for the bad and for the good. If this were to succeed in influencing some media positively, why should not these media, who have had a clean record on the previous year from this point of view, be granted a symbolic reduction of their taxes for the current year, and given a good publicity rating from a related official reviewing agency? Again here we could use a simple 'traffic light' system, coding their rating as Red, Yellow or Green.

  3. Reality shows - Reality shows may have an interest and a utility in showing the reality of what people do, even when it is not great edification, if not gross occasional behavior. Having people express electronically their preference for a particular character, in terms of entertainment, is quite admissible if and when there is no important award in money to be given on that basis alone to an assumed winner. Reality characters have an important role, explicitly and subliminally, in terms of example of behavior to be given to their audience. In the spirit of Meritocracy, which is most important to all EthoPlasìn Members, an important award in money should always, and only, be attached to best meritorious behavior, as judged by a board of expert senior citizens capable of properly assessing best quality of civic behavior as an example to be given to future generations. For this reason, ideally, this board should be composed exclusively, or certainly in majority, of senior citizens with living grand-children. This would not prevent to get in any case a confronting assessment through electronic means, like tele-voting, for information purposes on the most entertaining character, but that tele-voting should never be the decisive factor for the attribution of an important money award.  

  4. Exposing Violence - Criminal violence exposed on media, printed press or multimedia, has an enormous impact on the children looking at it, and mostly, if not exclusively, a very negative influence on their behavior while they are growing and probably also after they get to be adults. There is so much of it, exposed through all forms of media, TrafficLighton a daily and nightly basis, be it from the news, from films, or from the printed press, that this kind of information, real or imagined, constitutes practically the bulk of what media offer today. With so much of it, children and youths, exposed to it indiscriminately on their own, get the subliminal message that it is 'normal', and that they can also use violence when they feel they should do so for their own purposes, if not outright for their own pleasure or entertainment. This is wrong! Terribly wrong! More than wrong however, this is probably the main causes of so many youths being involved today in growing amounts of bullying, violence and criminality. Something must be done about it. We cannot use censorship but, by the same token, we can certainly pretend to also have the right to be exposed to it only when we explicitly want to, not just at any time, and when we have no desire for it, like through TV programs projecting violent films or violent serials at any time of the day and with no accountability for the damage done. We can also pretend to make parents more responsible, through forcing them into making explicit acts of will, choosing formally to view or acquire violent media for themselves or their minor children. TV, seen by children, inevitably for hours everyday, with the impossibility to control them all the time, is the most guilty of all media. To start with, all TV programs not showing 'real news violence', but featured violence, like non-historical violent films, should have a Media Violence Rating Code (MEVIRCO) of three levels attached to it by a special previewing agency. The MEVIRCO code would be like a simple traffic light: Green, Yellow and Red. By law, all non-green-tag programs should be available only on explicit request by the TV viewer through the payment of a fee with a credit card or the subscription to new PAY-TV technology. This type of facilities already exists in many places for pornographic programs, the 'pink' category, which should not all be 'red' by definition (see separate paragraph), but with a good number of them only available through the explicit act of will of an adult, for the adult himself or one of his minor dependents, like the act of a payment through a credit card. It should be extended by law to all non-green TV programs. That kind of required payment would certainly call in the involvement of a parent if the program is to be seen by a child below 16. For yellow tag media, the fee would be smaller. For red tag media, the fee would be much higher. As for cinemas, control would be much easier. All yellow films would require the presence of an accompanying parent, or other related adult, for the admission of children under 16, and the firm presence of one of the genitors for red tag films. Clients unable to readily prove their identity, or relationship, or age, should be plainly refused admission without discussion. They should know about it and come prepared, otherwise leave. The under 14 should only be allowed to view green violent films at the cinema. In the case of real live news on TV, unfortunately, it should probably be allowed to take place without formal control, hopefully with better parent control through adequate publicity of the responsible ministry of information. Violent video-games featuring the use of real violent behavior in an assumed 'funny' or 'pleasant' way, like excessive kick-boxing and killing, should all be tagged 'red', serial numbered, and sold only to an adult presenting an ID card and signing for receiving it, recognizing his moral responsibility for eventually leaving it in the hands of a minor below 16. Records should be kept privately by stores for up to 2 years and never provided to police or any other authority except on an explicit request from a judge in the context of a criminal investigation. The yellow marked video-games would similarly relate to minors below 14. This would not be censorship. This would not be a limitation of production. This would not be a police intervention. It would only be more appropriate use of violent media to help reverse the terrible and growing trend of the endemic and rampaging violence we face today, on the part of minors in particular. By law, newspapers in turn should only be allowed to show 'real and live' criminal violence, as it just happened, as recent or developing news. Reviews of old news of criminal violence should not normally recall the most violent pictures if at all possible. With a bit of imagination, journalists of serious newspapers employing responsible parent-journalists, could also be trained quite easily to provide adequate comments when publishing violent news, in order to ensure children who read their pieces do not just take it for granted and as a normal thing to happen with impunity, or to do without consequences. The most dramatic pictures involved in these pieces for example could include a special graphical frame, with an agreed symbol, formulating a few lines of appropriate comments, a short evaluation of the degree of criminality likely to be involved, and the kind of punishment the criminal code provides for such violence or criminal acts. Natural violence of course, like tsunami or earthquakes, should always be allowed through for children to see freely, albeit maybe with good parent control. Ideally, news on general criminality should also be placed in separate pages, or even a separable supplement with a distinguishing type of graphics. When considered appropriate, by adults supervising children, when the pages are too crude or not commented appropriately, this supplement could also be easily taken out of the newspaper to be discarded or kept safely away from whoever should preferably not see it.

  5. Also a Black MEVIRCO Code? - The above Media Violence Rating Code system should be instituted by law immediately, specifically for 'violence' rating purposes, as opposed to other kind of 'moralistic' purposes, in its three Green, Yellow and Red colors. However, our society, through the most serious media and political institutions, should probably also open immediately a not less serious debate on the possibility of having also a Black MEVIRCO code. In principle, censorship should not exist and EthoPlasìn members should certainly not propose its institution in any formal way shape or form. On the other hand, there is such an incredible amount of growing violence in our society at the moment, both in terms of serious criminality and micro-criminality on the part of youths, that some form of control on the factors that influence this phenomenon should also be put into place, otherwise we are looking forward for a quick and complete destruction of the civilization that we have acquired through hundreds of years of hard meritorious efforts. Where could the Black MEVIRCO code apply? We can think easily of a couple of good possible suggestions to start with. For example, action films not showing historical violence of massive killings in real wars of the past (or of the present), but purely featured and gratuitous killings, by the dozens, in the most aggressive and hideous ways, showing the worst imaginable details as if they were normal legitimate acts of no consequence, all along the two hours of their duration, should probably be coded with a Black MEVIRCO code automatically. Pedophilic porno films, showing actors below 16, should probably also be coded the same way automatically if they cannot be prohibited entirely from production. Then, particularly serious and most heavy penalties could be imposed for the production, the distribution, the acquisition, and in particular the showing, of such violence in front of minors. Something should definitely be done to resolve this problem that has most serious and negative consequences on our culture and on all our civic environments. To just 'let go' in a nihilistic way is not only a 'no-solution' but first and foremost a quick path to a civic catastrophe affecting most negatively the daily life of all of us. And it is already late, very late, for taking appropriate corrective action!

  6. Pornography - There is a lot of pornography on TV, even at early hours of the night and very often also during day hours. There is probably much too much of it at times of high TV audience and much to much of it also in public kiosks as opposed to discrete porno shops in 'reserved' areas. Pornography however is not all bad by definition. Not at all! There is some good pornography and it can often be very useful from an educational point of view, privately or in appropriate educational meetings, let alone for legitimate entertainment in some particularly friendly private adult encounters. Pornography is a special 'Pink' category all by itself, independently from the categories related to violence. Pink pornographic films should not have a 'Red' Media Violence Rating Code code automatically, but rather also one of the three MEVIRCO codes as appropriate: Green, Yellow or Red. Pornography films showing beautiful and natural sex, even the most explicit one, should have a Green MEVIRCO tag, albeit maybe shown legally on TV only at evening hours when parents are usually at home and can have a minimum of supervision over what their minor children are exposed to. For adults, or growing minors under their loving supervision, such good pornography is not much different than an exposition to a beautiful landscape or a lovely farm in which all types of life forms use sex joyfully and sanely. Such films only expose beautiful nature and should be enjoyed as such in appropriate places, hours and occasions. However, such beautiful pornographic films, good in essence, but showing homosexual or lesbian sex should have a cautious Yellow MEVIRCO tag and treated accordingly, normally acquired only on an explicit request of the viewer (like the payment of a fee), but mainly for the protection of minor children and the possible artificial and unnecessary deviating influence they could have on them if viewed at a particularly tender age. Viewing such Yellow tag porno should be delayed viewing for minor children, if at all possible, until the child is at least 16. All other pornographic films showing violent sex with various forms of beating or rape, or dirty and ugly sex, with excrements or anal relations, or extravagant sex with the use of fetish tools, or abnormal sex with animals, should all have at least a Red MEVIRCO tag and, ideally, completely prohibited from production and distribution, except under most severe control, and high fines, and prison sentences, if shown or sold without the explicit written request of the viewer, in particular in front of minors. Films showing pedophilic sex of any kind or style, with acting children under 16, should all be severely and entirely prohibited from production subject to only jail sentences as opposed to administrative fines. 

  7. Defamatory Questions - Journalists sometime write articles asking 'questions', usually addressed to an important political figure, possibly oBirdPairn the front page or in the editorial of an important newspaper, that, if turned simply into an affirmation, using the same words without the question mark, the affirmative version would constitute a clear defamation. These should include both questions implying a possible 'crime' or a possible 'scandal' in relation to the professional or personal life of the person to whom the question is being asked. Asking such questions, in this highly visible manner, and in writing, pretending an answer, is not a legitimate journalistic question but factually defamation. As such it is, and should be, a defamation crime. Doing the same verbally in the context of a public meeting or a humoristic or satirical TV show, should automatically also become a 'crime' of defamation. If the journalist asks the question, it means he does not have the answer to that question. Consequently it means he does not have his facts right nor complete. In such case his duty should be solely to continue to investigate the facts as professionally as possible as all good journalists must do. Asking that type of 'question' formally and publically as a journalist, in particular on the front page of an important newspaper, is clearly by itself a hidden defamatory 'affirmation', not a 'question'. Prosecutors can maybe legitimately ask such questions in the context of a court action in a tribunal, with possible reserve of admission by the judge, but not a journalist in a newspaper. Journalists are not prosecutors. Just asking such devious and loaded questions in that way and pretend an answer, or a denial, can destroy a personal life, a family or an important career, political in particular, and cause incredible civic damage to a person, a group of persons, a political party or an entire town or country. This happens an awful lot. This happens much too often. Proper change to current legislation should be made to solve this terrible uncivil abuse as soon as possible.

  8. Defamation Through Press - Defamation through the press, contrary to through other means, should be de-penalized and brought under the Common Law system instead of the Criminal Law. A journalist honestly using strong language, that could be interpreted as defamation in front of a common law court, if the reported facts are later found to be incorrect or false, should not risk to go to jail but risk to pay for damages, in concurrence with his director and his editor. This would ensure better liberty of the press in playing their natural watchdog role (following paragraph) and pulling out elements of political corruption, without inhibiting journalists to do their job correctly. This is not the natural role of a private citizen, but certainly one of the natural roles of the journalist. By the same token, they, and their superiors, should be held seriously responsible for gross mistakes in playing that important role.  

  9. Ethics Watchdog Role - Journalists should not only be better controlled and better control their work, in particular when exposing violence, but also in turn have more legal rights to be better 'controllers' of what happens in the world, in particular in the political world for which they should be, legally, the formal natural watchdogs of citizens at large. In certain circumstances journalists should be given better legal rights to investigate WatchDogLensmore easily the suspected activities of politicians or any organization spending public fuSoldierFlynds, being allowed to be ethics watchdogs showing-up inadvertently like a disturbing Soldier Fly on their heads (sample to the right) and consult on request the official registries of politicians' activities in their offices (playing the 'DOG' and 'ROD' game outlined with humor in our page on Political Issues). If this right cannot be given to a journalist, then maybe there would be a legitimate legal base for an alternative, giving that right, somehow, to persons who voted for that politician, or maybe even better: give it legally and automatically to a journalist who publicly declared, in writing, in his newspaper, during an election period, that he would be, and was, a voter for that politician. Journalists can certainly become better watchdogs on the part of all citizens, and must do so, in particular against the bad activities of politicians spending public money, and the work of journalists doing it should be facilitated as much as possible, certainly much more than now, under current legislation. Journalist should also play a similar watchdog role in front of micro-criminals as mentioned in our separate page on that subject. See our hot pages on Political Issues, Government Issues and Micro-Criminality Issues where we have made good suggestions about this important civic role of all journalists as citizens watchdogs.

  10. News vs. News Analysis - Most educated newspaper readers want mainly serious comments, sophisticated opinions and professional analysis, as opposed to plain 'news'. With the advent of Internet, combined to what modern TV offers, simple 'news' are accessible instantly, and there are too many similar versions and places where it is available. From this point of view, we face an excess of news and we live in a world of 'News Glut' which causes us terrible frustration and the loss of precious time. News Description should be separated from News Analysis, Opinion and Comments. The latter should be placed in separate sets of pages in the same newspaper and presented with a different graphical output. Relevant articles of analysis in these special pages should also be preceded by a brief introductory summary in one single paragraph, marked "Summary", expanding briefly the title of the article. If the article starts on the first page, only its summary should be placed on that first page and the whole article, including its repeated summary, should be placed in the special News Analysis pages of the newspaper.

  11. Lobbying Pages -  In the same way that newspapers should have a separate set of pages for News Analysis, they should have another separate set of pages for Lobbying purposes. In our page on Political Issues, we suggest that direct lobbying with politicians has too often become a system of hidden legalized corruption and that it should be considered a crime of undue intervention in the objectivity of politicians. Lobbying should be admissible only as a public debate through the media, and newspapers should thus offer another separate set of pages specifically for this purpose, at a very convenient 'social' price, so that even small groups, or even individuals at certain conditions, could get space in them for lobbying purposes on a just cause. These separate pages should also have a special kind of graphical presentation to distinguish them properly from the normal pages of current non-lobby news. 

Important details

  1. Articles with only their summary on the front page should have that summary repeated at the top of the article at the page where the full article is written.

  2. All names of persons mentioned in articles should always, and automatically, be evidenced in bold font characters.

  3. All sentences of comments made ironically, meaning the contrary of what is being said, should always be in Italic font characters.

  4. All editorial pages and all the pages of the special section of News Analysis should be without publicity.

  5. Articles, in particular the ones in the special pages of News Analysis, should be presented in a way to facilitate physical clipping, or electronic scanning, in normal pieces of an A4/Letter format. This should include the agreed code name of the newspaper and the date of publication in small fonts on the top right corner of each A4 block of the article.

  6. For versions online, newspapers should always allow to do the same in PDF format, with the article published with all its relevant pictures and ready to be saved or printed without the need of any additional manipulation.

  7.  All newspapers which are not 'independent' but politically affiliated, directly or indirectly, should be obliged to indicate so clearly right under their front page logo name, mentioning the political party involved.

  8. If newspapers receive public funds to assist them, the annual amount should also be indicated clearly by law on a second line below their front page graphical logo name. This is certainly the case of dozens of important newspapers in Europe, if not the case of the majority in certain countries, and citizens have the right to know how their money is being spent, in particular if it is being spent for crappy information or devious information that could influence badly a lot of people.

All the above suggestions are simple common sense, very easy to do, and involve no costs. They would nevertheless save incredible frustration and time to citizens wanting to read papers more easily and keep excerpts or clippings more easily in a proper format. They would also facilitate immensely the skimming of the information glut we face at the moment and the quick screening out of the most crappy stuff. Again these suggestions would involve no additional costs, only much better service for the overall civic community.