In the last couple of days I have read social media comment from different people who work in the communications business firstly suggesting that they have a “duty to the public”, and secondly that “Newsrooms [and agencies] should be representative of the public they seek to serve.”
I’ve worked in communications for more than forty years and I have never hesard either of these suggestions before, and I have difficulty understanding why either either group of people have any duty to, or should seek to serve, anybody except their paymasters.
If a news outlet is state or community owned and/or established for the benefit of a particular community then it is their purpose to serve them, they clearly have a duty to them, and should be representative of them.
This would also be true of people who work in communications roles for the state, communities, or Not-For-Profit organisations with a clear social purpose. It could be argued that this also applies to those who work for Social Enterprises in so far as they seek to serve and have a duty towards the specific comunities the enterprise has been established to support.
However where a news outlet/agency or a communications consultant or in-house employee works for a private sector organisation, their duty is owed to the interests of the investors they have been employed to serve.
I cannot begin to imagine why any commercial or political organisation would hire anybody to work for it other than to serve its own interests.
I’m struggling to think of anybody who is not a public servant who owes a duty to or serves “the public.”
A financial adviser owes a duty to their client only.
A doctor owes a duty to their patient.
A lawyer owes a duty to the court of which they are an officer.
Even a Member of Parliament serves his or her own constuituents and Parliament, but not the public as a whole.
Members of the professions owe a duty to their profession in addition to their clients.
But people who work in non-state controlled or community funded news organisations (unless in a closed shop union organisation) or the business of communications serve the interests of those who pay them.
In my own working life in both politics and the commercial sector I have never served anybody’s interests other than those of the organisations which paid and me to which I owed and continue to owe a duty of absolute loyalty.
This seems so unarguable to me that it surprises me to read that other people have such an opposite opinion. I therefore welcome hearing the counter argument that so far completely eludes me
He who pays the piper calls the tune.