The Matrix Project is an effort to document personal factors that undermine powerful journalists’ claims of objectivity and impartiality. We have constructed a database on the Top 100 UK journalists to note significant conflicts of interest and likely causes of bias/imbalance. Read on for more info and access to the database!
Journalists love to tell us how independent they are, how impartial they are and how fearless they are. Their very raison d’etre, they tell us, is to interrogate power.
“the need for an institution, an estate, a profession, a trade…that exists independently of the other main centres of power in society”ALan rusbridger
“I would die in a ditch for the impartiality of the BBC”Laura Kuenssberg
“It was the job then and it is the job now for the BBC, for journalism in general, to challenge those in power”Nick Robinson
Those who closely analyse the media observe a different picture. Chomsky’s propaganda model, explained here, and a weight of evidence, summarised here, suggest that, far from challenging power, the primary role of corporate media journalists is to pacify the public and manufacture consent for the policies of the rich and powerful.
Are journalists, in fact, non-independent, highly partial courtiers of power?
An important factor in this debate – one that isn’t usually studied – is the socio-economic/educational background of influential journalists. It seems uncontroversial to say that individuals from an “elite” background (Oxbridge/private school, extreme wealth, family members in “establishment” positions) generally perceive the world differently to those from a non-elite background.
They are, for example, more likely to share the concerns of the powerful than those from “lesser” backgrounds and may even constitute part of the Establishment, defined by Owen Jones as “powerful groups that need to protect their position…to ‘manage’ democracy to make sure that it does not threaten their interests.”
In addition, graduates of exclusive schools and universities are so concentrated at the top of British society (documented in this Elitist Britain parliamentary report) that they enter the professional world with countless pre-existing connections to powerful figures in other fields. A journalist like Emily Sheffield, editor of the Evening Standard from 2020-21 has friends and family – friends of friends, friends of family – in the very fields she’s meant to hold to account. Private Eye note that “the Standard was oddly uncurious about the Greensill scandal which enveloped Sheffield’s brother-in-law David Cameron…”
We decided to take a close look at the 100 most influential news journalists in the UK to see how many fit an “elite” or “establishment” mould through their backgrounds and/or personal connections. This is not a subjective study. We outline clearly here our criteria and methodology.
We have, however, chosen to call this project The Matrix Database. Why? Because if our findings show that the majority of the top UK journalists represent the elite of society, incestuously interlinked with other fields of power, it is yet further evidence that the mainstream media provide a distorted picture of the world and perpetuate, rather than challenge, power…
The Top 100 UK Journalists (2021)
(ranked by Twitter followers)
Journalists with a picture have been added to the database. Click their picture to read their entry.