Comment is free, but facts are sacred

Posted October 22nd, 2008 by ingrid

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the quote below from C.P. Scott’s A Hundred Years essay, written in 1921. Scott was Editor of the Manchester Guardian (now just The Guardian) for an extraordinary 57 years from 1872 until 1929 and he wrote A Hundred Years to celebrate the centenary of the paper:

Comment is free, but facts are sacred. “Propaganda”, so called, by this means is hateful. The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard. Comment also is justly subject to a self-imposed restraint. It is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair. This is an ideal. Achievement in such matters is hardly given to man. We can but try, ask pardon for shortcomings, and there leave the matter.

I keep getting all twisted up trying to work out where the line should be drawn when it comes to documentaries supporting social change which are often presenting facts for a cause (and often a very good cause at that). I’ll have to come back to this later as I don’t have time to really flesh out this argument now – but any comments would be welcome. Documentaries are not the same thing as journalism after all. And yet sometimes they are. So how does the audience know the difference? Argh, back down the rabbit hole I go!

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