Journalism has a huge role in the future — but it needs help to deliver

To mark the start of Journalism Matters Week, Henry Faure Walker, chairman of the News Media Association and chief executive of local news publisher Newsquest, looks at the role the industry played during the pandemic — and what it can do as the UK looks to the future:

The value of trusted journalism to society has never been more clearly demonstrated than over the last 18 months.

During tough and uncertain times, people have turned to news media for information they can rely upon.

Without trained journalists to uncover the truth, all that’s left is spin from the authorities, and misinformation and fake news on the social platforms.

I shudder to think of a world in which it is impossible to tell fact from fiction. But, without journalism, this is the world in which we all would live.

Not only do we report the facts, but we actively campaign on the issues that matter to you and push for meaningful change.

It is a role we in the industry relish, and we won’t stop taking up your causes and delivering results for you; the public we are here to serve.

The pandemic has brought uncertainty and profound challenges to all our lives.

But it is now time to look forward to a future in which journalism has a renewed standing in our lives.

That’s why we celebrate journalism through the Journalism Matters campaign which is running this week.

As COP26 gets underway, the hugely important issue of climate change is an excellent example of the power of journalism to be a catalyst for progress.

News media titles may not always agree on the best way forward to tackling environmental issues.

But healthy disagreement — founded in fact and expert opinion — is the essence of a truly plural media, which we are lucky to have in this country.

It is only through robust public debate and scrutiny, that we will find the innovative solutions we need to solve these large and complex issues.

News media is the perfect forum for this debate to take place and, as such, we have a critical role to play in tackling climate change.

But, as we bounce back from the pandemic, it is vital that our industry is given the right support so we can continue to invest in quality journalism.

This means creating the proper protections for journalism in new legislation to crack down on online harms — an important but complex piece of regulation with implications for freedom of speech.

Sadly, the American owned tech giants continue to leech revenues away from British journalism, while exploiting our content to sell advertising on their own platforms.

We welcome Government moves to tackle this problem, seeking to deliver a level playing field and fair practices, but time is running out, particularly for some local publishers, and we need the Government to go further, faster.

And the BBC needs to be prevented from rolling its tanks, funded by the licence fee, onto the lawn of the hard pressed independent local news sector.

Be in no doubt, the BBC’s plans to expand its local news services in direct competition with commercial outlets would be hugely damaging for local journalism — and by extension local democracy.

Journalism has a positive and hugely important role to play in society as we move forward.

We, the industry, want to work with Government, regulators and, most importantly, the public, to create the right conditions for British journalism to thrive.

As we celebrate Journalism Matters this week, I would ask that you join with me in celebrating the vital role that journalism plays in our lives and the essential contribution that news media makes to our democracy and our country.

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