Peter Oborn

Peter Oborne won Columnist of the Year at the British Press Awards in 2013. By all accounts it was well deserved. He had enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a journalist and author - until this year. Recently, and suddenly, Peter Oborne resigned as chief political commentator for The Daily Telegraph, a major British newspaper. His leaving came as a surprise to both his many readers and the media community. To begin with, he was quiet about his reasons for leaving, but this has changed. In a letter to openDemocracy, a British news website, he talked of the rise in power of large advertisers and how executives are reacting to their influence by altering the content of their newspapers. Oborne found himself unable to work under these constraints and so he left.

In his words:

“A free press is essential to a healthy democracy. There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth. It is not only the Telegraph that is at fault here. The past few years have seen the rise of shadowy executives who determine what truths can and what truths can’t be conveyed across the mainstream media.”

This action required a great deal of courage and it may see Mr. Oborne blacklisted as a mainstream journalist.

Newspapers, television, and radio are becoming more and more the property of large corporate enterprises and they exist to satisfy the wants and needs of their shareholders. Generally, this translates to a focus on profits and the bulk of mainstream media profits are derived from advertising. This fact places our media in potential conflict of interest situations. The vast majority of us use the media as our primary information source. They provide insights into the candidates we vote for; they tell us which vehicles are safe to drive or which foods are safe to eat. They even tell us which schools are best for our children. We have come to rely on the media for it's objectivity when making the most important decisions in our lives. If we can’t trust this information what other options do we have?

There is only one real option, and that is the Internet. It may be largely unregulated, poorly presented and, on occasion, wildly biased but it is, at the very least, a counterpoint to what may be a filtered and profit-driven message from traditional mainstream sources. Until they gain back our trust - if ever - we must do the research and check all the facts before finally deciding on anything that may have a real impact in our lives.