The hard news debate: How quality journalism can survive in a world of fake news and social media

On the evening when the Cairncross Review was published a London Press Club debate tackled the question the industry is asking: Can quality journalism survive in a world of fake news and social media?

Polly Curtis, ex-Huff Post UK editor-in-chief and former digital editor of the Guardian, told the debate: “Never before have so many people consumed so much information without knowing what they are reading – and that’s a real problem for us.”

Curtis, one of the Cairncross media team, added: “The problem is that Facebook and Google cleaned up on advertising online – I don’t blame them, they did it better – but the impact that has is not just on the industry that we’re all in but it’s on the democracy we live in and that’s what’s really, really important to find a way to protect, especially as local news scrutiny has been weakened.”

Jane BarrettReuters global head of multimedia, told the debate that quality journalism will survive “because society needs it” but “possibly not in the same format. There are so many more opportunities through digital to reach more people and tell stories in different ways.”

More than 160 attended the London Press Club event held in association with the Society of Editors and Stationers & Newspapermakers’ Media Group at Stationers’ Hall.

Jane BarrettReuters global head of multimedia, agreed that quality journalism will survive “because society needs it” but “possibly not in the same format. There are so many more opportunities through digital to reach more people and tell stories in different ways.”

Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of Index on Censorship, said that to define quality journalism as only newspapers was “too narrow”, identifying the positive emergence of hyperlocal websites here and in the US.

And she warned that “in the rush to do something about it, particularly from the newspapers here in the UK, saying how dreadful these organisations are, we will end up with rules, restrictions and regulations that end up hampering quality journalism, rather than making it stronger and more successful”.

Martin Bentham, home affairs editor of the Evening Standard, said quality journalism would survive, partly because there was “an appetite for people to be journalists and there were more opportunities for young people to engage and go online.”

The Debate Panel: Polly Curtis, Jane Barrett, Michael Hayman, Jodie Ginsberg and Martin Bentham

The critical problem remained “the financial viability, not just of the print model but also online services, and the danger that journalists don’t have the time to do the work, not just on flagship investigative reporting, it’s also the bread and butter reporting at the grass roots level on your local councils and local courts and that remains a big threat.”

The debate, at Stationers Hall, was chaired by Michael Hayman MBE, an entrepreneur, broadcaster and author who co-founded the campaigns firm Seven Hills.

After the debate. London Press Club chairman Doug Wills said: “We in the media should always remember that we are here to tell the story, not be the story. This debate was all about reinforcing ways of ensuring publishers in print and online are relevant to our readers and uphold their trust in quality journalism.

“The panel were incisive, and some brilliant questions from the floor highlighted the challenges. It was a superb debate on a vital subject to our industry.”

Links to other reports of the debate:

https://www.wearesevenhills.com/can-quality-journalism-survive-in-a-world-of-fake-news/

Richard Dymond

Honorary Treasurer and Director of the London Press Club and the London Press Club Ball.

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