Bath Chronicle

Trusted jour­nal­ism is play­ing a huge part in na­tion’s re­sponse to coro­n­avirus cri­sis

- Henry Faure Walker Journalism · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Google · Facebook

This year has been one of the most dis­rup­tive and un­cer­tain in liv­ing mem­ory.

The coro­n­avirus has swept the globe leav­ing a trail of mis­ery and hard­ship in its wake.

Gov­ern­ments have been grap­pling with a re­lent­less suc­ces­sion of dif­fi­cult and com­plex de­ci­sions in or­der to se­cure the best – or least worst – out­come for their cit­i­zens.

In the news me­dia in­dus­try, part of our job has been to help our read­ers make sense of th­ese un­prece­dented events.

We have re­ported on ev­ery twist and turn of the lo­cal and na­tional lock­downs and kept you up to date with vi­tal pub­lic health in­for­ma­tion.

We have held power to ac­count and ro­bustly chal­lenged the de­ci­sion­mak­ers on your be­half.

Some­times, our role has been to seek clar­ity amid con­fu­sion from the au­thor­i­ties, and toxic mis­in­for­ma­tion about coro­n­avirus spread by bad ac­tors on so­cial me­dia.

It’s a role we take very se­ri­ously, and our jour­nal­ists are bet­ter equipped than any­one else to do the job.

And we know that our jour­nal­ism is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, as au­di­ences for trusted news and in­for­ma­tion have soared dur­ing the cri­sis.

In­de­pen­dent re­search shows that the pub­lic place great value on news and in­for­ma­tion from sources they can trust dur­ing the pan­demic.

Pro­vid­ing the pub­lic with trusted and ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion is at the heart of what we do. But our role goes much fur­ther than that.

At the start of the pan­demic, the in­dus­try came to­gether to tell read­ers we are #there­with­you, with nearly ev­ery daily re­gional ti­tle in the coun­try run­ning the same front page on the same day.

And we haven’t looked back since. We have run cam­paigns to raise funds for front­line work­ers and aware­ness of the chal­leng­ing work they do each day to keep us all safe.

We have given our back­ing to small busi­nesses, the en­gine of our econ­omy, with free ad­ver­tis­ing to help them through th­ese chal­leng­ing times.

We have launched ini­tia­tives to help peo­ple keep in touch with their fam­i­lies dur­ing the na­tional and lo­cal lock­downs.

We have run cam­paigns de­mand­ing PPE for all front-line NHS work­ers, and even flown PPE into the coun­try when sup­plies were short.

And we have run fundrais­ing ap­peals for the mil­lions of peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced real hard­ship as a re­sult of the pan­demic.

The lo­cal and na­tional news me­dia have been a fun­da­men­tal part of the coun­try’s re­sponse to coro­n­avirus and will con­tinue to be so.

But jour­nal­ism it­self has not been im­mune to the chal­lenges of the pan­demic.

Ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues, the lifeblood of in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ism, have been ham­mered by the eco­nomic down­turn leav­ing us with less money to in­vest in the jour­nal­ism we all want to read. At the lo­cal level, many news brands are in a per­ilous po­si­tion.

We now ur­gently need Gov­ern­ment to in­ter­vene with a se­ries of tar­geted ini­tia­tives to help sus­tain lo­cal in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ism in this coun­try.

And the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the news me­dia and the tech gi­ants needs to be prop­erly re­set.

For too long, Google and Face­book have had a free pass at us­ing our jour­nal­ism on their plat­forms, mak­ing huge prof­its, whilst con­tribut­ing com­par­a­tively noth­ing back into the in­dus­try. This prob­lem must be tack­led ur­gently in or­der for jour­nal­ism to have a bright fu­ture.

This week (Oc­to­ber 5-11), is the News Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion’s Jour­nal­ism Mat­ters cam­paign when we cel­e­brate the im­por­tance of jour­nal­ism in our so­ci­ety.

I hope that you will join me by re­flect­ing on all the great things that jour­nal­ism does for our so­ci­ety and will con­tinue to do for many years to come.

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