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8th July, 2011 - John Rose (Chief Executive, WorldShare)
I write this on the day it’s announced that the News of the World will cease publication. The most-read newspaper in the English language is to end after 168 years – killed by greed and a lack of integrity.
The phone-hacking scandal has gone on for years. Just a few weeks ago it was becoming amusing, as has-been and wannabe celebrities queued up to claim that they were important enough that their phone messages might have been intercepted.
Then, quite suddenly, it wasn’t at all funny any more. It became clear that not only those who want to put themselves in the public eye were affected, but also the families of murder and terrorist victims, and the families of servicemen killed in Afghanistan: ordinary people who had already had to cope with tragedy.
It will be years before the impact of this is finished.It has become very clear that it isn’t just the News of the World journalists and investigators who were doing this, but that it is commonplace in the media industry. The pursuit of a ‘scoop’, an exclusive titbit of news which will sell thousands more papers, has overwhelmed all thoughts of integrity, morality, decency.
What does it say also about our communities who continue to pay money daily for the product of this intrusion, knowing now how it may have been obtained? What does it say about the morality of our whole community, not just our journalism?
What does any of this have to do with WorldShare?
What those journalists did was motivated ultimately by the prospect of earning a bit more money for their papers and themselves. Charities are often accused of doing the same thing – of over-egging the tragedy stories; of publishing the pictures of weeping mothers and children; of inventing examples – with the ostensibly good intention of raising more donations. Sadly examples can always be found of this.
This matters. In fact it matters even more than the News of the World story will in the long-term; because it disillusions the public abut charities generally, good as well as bad. In doing so, it makes it harder to raise money for entirely proper causes, and so imperils the lives of beneficiaries for whom British charities are the only hope.
“You can’t believe all you read!” is a commonplace expression. Sadly, charities are in danger of being included in that.
At WorldShare, we are absolutely committed to providing the truth and only the truth. We try very hard indeed to give an honest and fair representation of the needs our partners are facing, and the impact of our involvement. Not to do so would be to mislead our very special supporters, and also to misrepresent our wonderful partners around the globe.
Integrity is of critical importance in charitable reporting, and is worth more than raising just that bit more money for an appeal. In the long-run, a lack of integrity usually comes to light.
Maintaining these standards isn’t easy. Finding reliable information and presenting it in a safe and balanced way is often very challenging. But nothing less will do.
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