Are we for sale?

money1The conference came to an end with a great scandal. No other scheduled speech could be of an interest after the statement of a deputy minister for communication. He was invited to speak to the conference “Journalism in 2012” organized by the faculty of journalism of Moscow University. One could expect some boring address like the officials usually do, but the words of deputy minister broke an academician atmosphere in a lecture hall. “Do you really trust that the journalism has a mission? Then you are giving a wrong motivation to your students. Journalism has no mission, but busyness. Better if you will explain your students from the very beginning: they will do what their boss will say!”

I have never heard  to conference such emotional and angry protests that followed after the statement. The next day it was news number one discussed in Russian media and different social nets. Of course, journalists felt insulted. Teachers of journalism were shocked. But there were also voices to support scandalous opinion. “Journalism is for sale indeed”, – these persons were saying, – “See, the newspapers will publish any stupid article if it will attract the readers and bring money, the TV channels will produce any false story to be attractive for advertisers and to take the lead over the competitors. Do you find pseudoscience articles every day or pseudoscience movies on TV? Since the audience pays for it, the newspapers or TV channels will produce it. Is not it for sale? Then is journalism busyness or no?”

These arguments reminded me a discussion during the conference in science journalism we had last October to the North of Russia, some German science journalists participated also being invited by German-Russian Forum. There were a lot of interesting talks, but really hard discussion started when somebody mentioned that nowadays science journalism is nothing but science PR as science journalist works to sale the scientific idea. The audience immediately divided into two opposite groups. One (bigger) insisted that science journalism has its noble goals which are knowledge, progress and so on, the second (smaller) part was saying: it is a relic to speak of a mission of journalism. Media is for sale, thus it will be honest to admit that a journalist works for sale. If so, there is no difference among science journalism and science PR; those who deny it do not get the things evident. This group appealed to us: “Open your eyes! Everything is for sale. Journalism as well” There were Russian as well German journalists from the both sides of our hard discussion.

Are we really blind relics – those who never agree that journalism is busyness or science journalism and science PR are equal?