(Deutsche Übersetzung am Ende des Beitrags)
Andrew Gowers, editor of the Financial Times, has written a brilliant commentary on the true lessons of the BBC scandal and the report of Lord Hutton: "The BBC's failings are a warning to all journalists". (Article in FT of January 31, 2004, p. 7 - paid content)
...the true message of the Hutton report is that this was a story about journalism, not about the deliberate embellishment of a government dossier on Iraqi WMD, against the wishes of the intelligence services. ...
No one - certainly not Lord Hutton - is suggesting that journalism must now retreat from questioning and investigating those in authority. On the contrary: such activites are more needed than ever. But they will have to be done better and - like government officials - we have a duty not to "sex up" what we claim to have found.
Let this dreadful misadventure, then, serve as a wake-up call for journalists.
It should remind us the reflexive media mistrust of every government action or pronouncement ... is corroding British democracy and eroding trust in the media themselves. ... When we make mistakes - as everyone does - the BBC's experience should teach us to correct rather than to defend blindly.
That is the only way to start restoring confidence in the broadcast media, newspapers and the thousands of conscientious journalists who work in them.
Jürgen Krönig in the German weekly ZEIT draws similar conclusions:
It would wrong to reduce the oroblem to a single reporter and an unsatisfactorily investigated and essentially false report. Andrew Gilligan is not a rare bird that accidentally landed in BBC's cage. He embodies a new journalistic culture that has infected the BBC and which increasingly colors its journalistic output and which stands in sharp contrast to the work ethic that was the foundation of the worldwide reputation of this broadcaster. Soberly dissociated journalism that is guided by the ethos of objectivity and impartiality no longer dominates at the BBC. The sensational story, the exciting scoop, more often than not, count more than a differentiated analysis. Even BBC reporters succumb to the temptation to make news, instead of reporting the news correctly. They want to be players on the field of politics, instead of just having to explain the game. (Translation by Holger)
One must admit that British journalism at least has elements of critical self-inspection. Nothing of the kind can be found in the German media system. It's simply unimaginable in Germany to have a government appointed commission investigating biased reporting at ARD or ZDF (whose status is most similar to that of the BBC). Criticizing journalists is simply "verboten" in Germany. As a politician you cross that line at your own risk...
Update: Tanker made me aware of this excellent article by Martin Kettle in the Guardian:
Having read the Hutton report and most of what has been written about it, I have reached the following, strictly non-judicial, conclusions: first, that the episode illuminates a wider crisis in British journalism than the turmoil at the BBC; second, that too many journalists are in denial about this wider crisis; third, that journalists need to be at the forefront of trying to rectify it; and, fourth, that this will almost certainly not happen.
The reporting of Lord Hutton's conclusions and of the reactions to them has been meticulous. The same cannot be said of large tracts of the commentary and editorialising - nor of much of the equally kneejerk newspaper correspondence. Much of this comment has been sullied by scorn, prejudice and petulance. The more you read it, the more you get the sense that the modern journalist is prone to behaving like a child throwing its rattle out of the pram because it has not got what it wanted.