The UCC Journalism Society event explored the concept of journalists as activists in news stories and whether investigative reporting was lacking.
The opening address was delivered on Saturday by the executive editor of the Irish Examiner, Dolan O’Hagan.
He said journalism had been challenged and, in future, would require greater collaboration and the proactive support of many. This included backing from legislative authorities and ordinary people who consume news.
Mr O’Hagan said that journalists had a duty to “reflect on what role we can play in meeting the demands and opportunities of a much more collaborative, open, and socialised multimedia landscape”.
The opening debate of the conference looked at the issue of finding balance in reporting.
Irish Examiner columnist Michael Clifford said many journalists may have got interested in the media because of an instinct for activism, but setting aside balance in reporting can lead journalists into the realms of propaganda.
Mary Fitzgerald, foreign correspondent with The Irish Times, revealed the difficulties of reporting from the frontlines of the conflicts that have broken out across the Arab world.
She said many sources of information in those conflicts represented one faction or another but, where atrocities occurred, each story still had to be treated with balance.
“There is a difference between reporting stories like that in terms of saying what happened is wrong and becoming a cheerleader for a particular cause,” she said.
However, Irish Times columnist John Waters said that to suggest reporters could be impartial automatons, and not bring emotion to a story, was wrong.
He said journalism was not about passive engagement, and that the media’s representation of each story reflected a choice based on a point of view.