Thursday, 7 May 2020

Media Quotes of the Week: From the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on journalism to a tale of two tweets on Press Freedom Day from Moscow to Trump

A survey by the International Federation of Journalists on the impact on journalism of the Covid-19 pandemic reveals: "Three in four journalists have faced official restrictions, obstruction or intimidation in reporting on Covid-19, according to a major new survey of more than 1300 frontline journalists in 77 countries. Two-thirds of staff and freelance journalists have suffered pay cuts, lost revenue, job losses, cancelled commissions or worsening working condition as well as:
  • Nearly every freelance journalist has lost revenue or work opportunities.
  • More than half of all journalists are suffering from stress and anxiety.
  • More than a quarter lack essential equipment to enable them to work safely from home, while one in four lack any protective equipment to work in the field.
  • Dozens of journalists have been arrested, faced lawsuits or been assaulted.
  • More than a third of journalists have shifted their focus to covering Covid-19 related stories."

Will Jennings (Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Southampton) and Chris Curtis (YouGov) on the results of a new opinion poll: "It has been widely claimed that public trust in the media has collapsed – and that the coronavirus crisis is contributing to a loss of confidence. But is this true?...In YouGov’s latest poll, conducted on 26th and 27th April, 47% of people expressed trust in BBC News journalists to tell the truth. This number is actually up slightly from when the question was asked during the election campaign in December last year (44%) and just a point below where it stood in March before the government announced a shutdown in response to the coronavirus outbreak (48%). Trust in journalists for ITV and ‘upmarket’ newspapers has similarly been stable over the past six months.There simply has been no collapse in public trust in news media during the coronavirus outbreak."

Alan Rusbridger in the Observer: "The penny seems to be dropping in some quarters that journalism can be a matter of life and death. How many of our friends and loved ones die in this pandemic is to a great extent reliant on what people believe to be the truth about its seriousness. Experts are back in business. In a world of information chaos, journalism has to re-assert its claim on our trust. Many news organisations have risen remarkably to the challenge, fully justifying the decision to categorise journalists as key workers."

Philip Collins in The Times [£]: "The standard of ministers being fielded is so lamentable that Tory MPs are starting to worry. Victoria Atkins, the safeguarding minister, was the latest to collapse into incoherence on Good Morning Britain. Piers Morgan will be getting very fat with all the junior ministers he is having for breakfast."

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian: "I dislike the idea of state support for an industry whose essence is independent news and debate. Depending on how government acts in the coming months, I still believe most newspapers can keep going. Ministers are already throwing crumbs of NHS advertising in their direction. Last year’s Cairncross report suggested substantial payments from digital platforms to the press organisations that supply them. This might well be part of a wider new order for digital regulation. For the present, newspapers can only continue to bring peace of mind to those enduring the present agony. But if they start to disappear, they would not be just another victim of this government’s coronavirus policy. If they suffer, democracy suffers. Remember Betjeman: 'It’s strange that those we miss the most/ Are those we took for granted'.”

Liverpool Echo editor-in-chief Ali Machray on why the paper is asking readers for voluntary cash donations, as quoted by HoldTheFrontPage: “The Echo has been covering Liverpool and Merseyside for 141 years. We have fought for our communities, held the authorities to account, campaigned on important issues and told the heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, stories of the remarkable people of this unique region. It’s no secret that our industry faces serious challenges – and at the same time, more people are reading us than ever before. Our intention behind this optional contribution request is to sustain great journalism; keep growing, keep improving, keep Liverpool moving forwards.”

Press Gazette reports: "The FT’s media correspondent Mark Di Stefano has resigned after listening to a “confidential and sensitive” in-house video call during which staff at The Independent were informed about Covid-19-related cutbacks. The FT said: “The FT received a complaint from The Independent that a reporter had joined a staff conference call without authorisation. Access details had been shared with him. The journalist in question has now resigned from the company. The FT wishes to apologise to The Independent and the Evening Standard, which subsequently informed the FT that the same reporter had accessed a meeting it had held.”

Julian Mounter, former director-general, Television New Zealand, in a letter to The Times [£]: "Sir, Whatever the truth behind Panorama’s report on how ministers and the NHS have been handling the virus crisis (“Minister warns BBC about ‘bias’ after Panorama story”, May 4), public service broadcasting editors should always be vigilant in ensuring that their journalists are not seeking facts and opinion that support pre-conceived theories. Increasingly, one sees news presenters asking specialist reporters for their opinions and what they 'think' will happen. In my first week of training as a journalist, in a district office of a Cornish weekly newspaper five decades ago, my boss held up a piece of my copy and shouted: 'No one cares what YOU think! The only thing they want to hear from you are facts and truths.' In an era in which media income is in short supply, opinion is a cheaper option than solid digging for facts. Editors must not allow economics to mix the two."

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet in a statement for World Press Freedom Day: "There is no real media freedom when journalists are forced out of work or into precarious employment within an industry that has already suffered decades of cuts and under-investment. The global health crisis has shown the public desperately needs information that is accurate and reliable. This is why quality journalism falls within the spectrum of essential public services. It must be supported and sustained because society needs it."

Shaun Walker on Twitter: "Two tweets on the same day - the US embassy in Moscow and the US president. What a time to be a US diplomat."
  • Spokesperson for the US Embassy in Moscow Rebecca Ross on Twitter: "On #WorldPressFreedomDay,  we honor the many dedicated Russian journalists who continue their vital work despite increasing government pressure. Russian journalists have been jailed, threatened, and harassed simply because they seek to report the truth. #pressfreedom"
  • Donald Trump on Twitter: "The Fake News doesn’t show real polls. Lamestream Media is totally CORRUPT, the Enemy of the People!'

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