Journalism matters: Local journalism is crucial, but it needs to be supported

Trusted journalism is vital, but the industry that produces it needs support, says News Media Association chairman Henry Faure Walker.

News Media Association chairman Henry Faure Walker
News Media Association chairman Henry Faure Walker

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 decision-makers 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 are placing 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.

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But our role goes much further than that. The industry has 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. 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 frontline NHS workers.

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 have been hammered by the economic downturn, leaving us with less money to invest in the journalism we all want to read. We now urgently need Government to intervene with a series of targeted initiatives to help sustain local independent journalism in this country.

The relationship between the news media and the tech giants also needs to be reset. For too long, Google and Facebook have had a free pass at using our journalism on their platforms, making huge profits, while contributing comparatively nothing back into the industry. This problem must be tackled urgently for journalism to have a bright future.

This week, during the Journalism Matters campaign, I hope 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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