It has emerged, worryingly, that since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK in March, the Journalists' Charity has had to help 15 journalists and their families from losing their homes, and the lives of dozens of others would have been severely disrupted had they not received financial assistance from the charity.
The charity's newsletter discloses: 'At the outset of the crisis, we promised to give all applicants a rapid response to their enquiries, helping to minimise stress by allocating financial support as quickly as possible. As a result, many journalists received vital assistance during a critical time, often while waiting for government support, or for work opportunities to return'.
Chairman, Ramsay Smith, writes empathetically: 'In this most challenging of years, it is heart-warming to report the tremendous response to the COVID-19 crisis from friends and supporters of our charity... There has been carnage across the media sector – impacting freelance journalists, in particular, whom are working in print, broadcast and digital. Many of them have turned to the charity for the first time and we have been able to offer rapid assistance to them and their families. Our friends and supporters have rallied round and we are extremely grateful for the donations they have made to us throughout the pandemic'.
Ramsay, an Aberdonian, based in Glasgow, adds: 'Of course, our fund-raising events – normally held across the country – have been scuppered and the days when we can all be together again at these events are still somewhere over the horizon. However, we are wholly committed to maintaining support for those in need. And the charity's dedicated team, led by chief executive, James Brindle, will be working flat out in the coming months'.
Typical of the thank you letters reaching the charity's HQ in Dorking, Surrey, is one from a 51-year-old male journalist in Glasgow. He confides: 'It felt like we might lose everything, but the Journalists' Charity helped us when we had nowhere else to turn to. I cannot say thank you enough'.
And a 37-year-old journalist in Kent discloses: 'I went from working and being generally okay, to slipping quickly into a waking nightmare. Getting help from the charity so quickly was a lifeline for me and my family'.
As well as offering confidential advice and financial assistance, the charity is offering a number of free online sessions, plus a new industry outreach service highlighting the charity's role in workplaces.
The charity's patron, the Queen, gave her support to the drive to recognise the role of journalism during the crisis through a number of posts on the Royal Family's twitter account. The initiative, run from April to late summer, featured advertisements highlighting the huge effort involved in keeping audiences up-to-date on the crisis. And the campaign was backed by regional and national newspaper bodies and newspapers including the Daily Mail General Trust, The Guardian
, Financial Times
, DC Thomson, News UK and the Society of Editors.
Ellen Bramley, who previously worked for the Society of Editors, is tasked with spreading the word about the charity's vital role. If anyone would like to arrange a workplace session, email: email@example.com. And for further general information, visit the Journalist's Charity
I must declare an interest. The charity, then the Newspaper Press Fund, was my saviour when I fell on hard times not all that many years ago. I remain eternally grateful for how the charity played a major role in helping me get my life back on track. Little wonder that the charity's current work reduces me to tears of appreciation as it works its wonders.
I must confess that, of late, the activities of the Daily Mail General Trust's (DMGT) newspapers appear to be getting undue attention from me. My problem is that DMGT is by far the UK's most successful newspaper group, with the Daily Mail
and the Mail on Sunday
the top-selling newspapers in their separate fields. Thus, it is hard to avoid appearing to perpetuate an unfair bias towards the titles.
This situation repeats itself this week. However, I simply must, like the Prime Minister, salute the generosity of Daily Mail
readers for their outstanding fundraising effort as the mid-market morning newspaper ends its MailForce charity appeal after a seven-month run.
Some £11.7 million has been raised by readers and benefactors during the run of the COVID-19 fundraiser – reckoned to be one of the most successful newspaper appeals in modern times. MailForce has bought 42.3 million individual pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line healthcare workers in the NHS, care homes and charities since launching its emergency response in March.
Among the 42,304,000 pieces of PPE procured by MailForce were tens of millions of masks and aprons, and, most recently, it expanded to providing state-of-the-art machinery to hospitals including Great Ormond Street and Alder Hey.
On top of reader donations, the fund was kick-started with the help of benefactors, including £1.25 million from the Daily Mail's
proprietor, Viscount Rothermere, and a pledge from US software giant, Salesforce, to match donations up to £3 mlllion.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson enthused: 'The MailForce campaign is a remarkable achievement. I'd like to pay tribute to Daily Mail
readers for their incredible generosity and public spiritedness'.
And Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, said: 'I would like to say thank you to the Daily Mail
, MailForce and all those who have supported this quite remarkable and historic charity mission... The vital PPE and state-of-the-art testing machines that their generosity has provided have been hugely appreciated wherever they have been received across the heath service and care sector. This very practical expression of support for the NHS during the greatest health emergency in our history has helped nurses, doctors, therapists and other staff who have cared for more than 110,000 hospital patients with COVID-19'.
A Daily Mail
editorial simply read: 'We know our readers aren't the sort to go in for self-congratulation. Having helped save the lives of those who have willingly put themselves at such huge risk for all our sakes would normally be reward enough. But, on this occasion, as this remarkable appeal comes to its close, you should swell with pride. As the PM said, you have made a real difference. The Mail
And so say all of us!
BBC Scotland's new director, Steve Carson, will be reasonably happy that watchdog, Ofcom, in its annual report on the BBC, has given cautious approval to the BBC Scotland channel. According to a report in the Daily Mail
, Ofcom says that although the fledgling channel is still establishing itself with Scottish audiences '... early indications suggest that the channel may have had an early positive impact on viewers' impressions of the BBC'.
However, the channel's flagship news programme, The Nine
, continues to struggle. While the channel had a total average viewing share of 2.1% between April 2019 and March 2020, The Nine
attracted an average viewing audience of only 15,890 per episode during its first year on air. And, overall, The Nine's
average share in Scotland was only 0.84% compared to BBC One Scotland's flagship news programme, Reporting Scotland
, attracting 28%.
I fear that it is unlikely The Nine
will ever attract a largish audience – squeezed as it is between the early evening news programmes on BBC 1, ITV and Channel 4, and then BBC 1 and ITV again at 10pm, and BBC 2 chipping in with Newsnight
. The formidable and ever-improving Sky News
offers a 24-hour rolling news schedule. And, crucially, from 9-10pm, The Nine
is competing with purportedly the cream of programmes in that slot on BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 each evening.
Surprisingly, Ofcom also found that Scottish viewers still rate the BBC's news coverage lower then those living in any other area of the UK.
Stravaiging, as is my wont, through the newspapers, I chanced upon a little gem of a word – 'Dithyramb' (coined c 1600) – in a word puzzle, where you guess the definition from a choice of three explanations. Although clueless, I guessed correctly with: 'Any wildly enthusiastic speech or writing'. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary
says its origin is Greek from the word 'dithurambos' and in ancient Greece was an ecstatic choral hymn dedicated to Dionysus – the Greek god of the grape-harvest, winemaking and wine, of fertility, orchards and fruit, vegetation, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre in ancient Greek religion and myth. It now appears to refer to the main point of an argument – the truth of the matter – and it derives from the accounting term for the figure at the end of a financial statement that indicates a net profit or loss. I love it. It will be my word of the year for 2021. Just watch this space!