BBC director-general, Tim Davie, has declared that journalists must be 'activists for impartiality' to defend the news media in the face of distrust and disinformation. Davie, who made impartiality one of his four priorities when he was appointed last September, said organisations like the BBC need to be 'more overt about our intent'.
'Impartiality is something we learn: it's a skill, and we need to show people this is what we are in business to do,' Davie told a panel during a Reuters Next event, reported by Press Gazette.
Davie continued: 'The other thing is I think we need to be confident and double down on our point of difference which is we are impartial; we do believe there is a truth; and we know it's a somewhat impossible task to get to perfection in the endeavours we make but that is what we're going to do. I think we have to be really proactive. We are activists for impartiality in terms of what we need to do now. If we care, now's our time'.
Despite an increase in demand for trusted journalism since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were fears that any increase in trust would prove 'short-lived' said Davie. Before the virus hit last spring, overall levels of trust in the news globally (across 40 countries) were at the lowest point since the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism began to track the data, with only 38% saying they trusted news overall.
Davie pointed to the demand shown for BBC fact-checking service, Reality Check, observing: 'We are seeing big responses to fact-based journalism'. An in-depth piece explaining the groups, from QAnon to Proud Boys, who broke into the US Capitol building in Washington DC, topped the BBC News website's trending list.
Davie also urged people to remember that 'impartiality isn't dull' or dry: 'It is absolutely a real appetite for evidence, for truth, for testimony. It can be really good flavoursome reporting. I think it's very important that those of us fighting for impartial media and for truth-telling should absolutely not give way to "we have to do this in a way that gets the maximum clicks immediately" but it also doesn't give up on the theatre of it, the emotion of it, all the things we want to bring'.
Davie was joined by Reuters president, Michael Friedenberg, who advocated letting readers see behind the curtain 'so people understand the basis by which we're making our reporting' as facts are questioned more than ever before.
Friedenberg pointed out: 'As the world is becoming more polarised there's this rich green field right in the middle [where] the world is looking for unbiased, objective and independent news to help them make the proper decisions... What we used to take for granted is that we used to think that fact was fact, and now even fact is being questioned, so the reliance on data, the reliance on science, the reliance on factual information has never been more important.
'I think what we as media organisations now need to do is open up the curtain and let people in and understand the transparency by which we are reporting and creating this content because, unfortunately, we can't just do what we've been doing for hundreds of years by just saying "trust us". I think we now have to make sure that everybody's part of that process and opening up that viewpoint so people understand the basis by which we're making our reporting.'
Davie echoed the idea of a 'green field' that is rich for unbiased reporting, even without asking people to turn to solely wholly impartial sources like the BBC. 'I think people are smart,' he said. 'They can go and read a bit of partial media, have a flavour over here but then a significant part of their time spent absorbing the news is "okay, I need to go to a source I can trust, I need to go somewhere where I can set the story in perspective and get quality analysis". That's the green field Michael was talking about... 'Murder the media' was carved into the US Capitol [today]. There are no words to express how disturbing this is. A free press that's able to hold those in power accountable is what makes our democracy work.'
Former Sunday Mail
journalist, Russell Findlay, who survived an acid attack on his doorstep, is standing for political office in his assailant's hometown. He will contest Paisley for the Scottish Conservatives at the Scottish Parliamentary election in May.
Russell was attacked at his home two days before Christmas 2015 while his daughter, 10, slept upstairs. The attacker, William Burns, was convicted of assault to severe injury and danger of life following trial.
Russell's candidature comes following his appointment as director of communications for the Tories in Scotland last September. He told the Paisley Daily Express
: 'As a journalist I often gave voice to victims of injustice and challenged those in authority. As an MSP, I would bring that same attitude, energy and determination to fight for the people of Paisley.
As a journalist, you can get under the skin and report what's going on but I believe meaningful change can only be achieved through politics'.
The Conservatives came third in Paisley at the 2016 election, with incumbent SNP MSP George Adam holding a 5,199 majority over second-placed Labour.
BBC local radio stations have relaunched a campaign to help provide access to laptops for children and young people in need as schools returned to online learning. HoldTheFrontPage reports that with an estimated one in 10 children having no access to a device across the UK, and with old devices likely to be discarded after Christmas, all 39 BBC local radio stations are encouraging the public to donate their unwanted items to help pupils who are still in need of a digital device.
The 'Make a Difference: Give a Laptop' campaign will connect listeners to specialist charities across the country that will safely wipe donated devices before distributing them to local schools.
Chris Burns, head of BBC Local Radio, explained: 'Everyone has a right to education and it has never been more important for all children to have access to the same opportunities. Throughout the pandemic our listeners have shown time and again just how big an impact we can all make, and by coming together once more to donate unwanted laptops, tablets and devices we will be able to help many more schools and families in need'.
Regional newspapers have also been at the forefront of campaigns to ensure children have the right tech to continue learning remotely. More than 200 devices were donated within 24 hours of a 'Laptop for Kids' campaign supported by Newcastle daily, The Chronicle
And the Sheffield-based daily, The Star
, backed the campaign throughout last year by urging readers and local businesses to donate unwanted laptops to be offered to young people. The Star
also delivered more than 10,000 free copies of its paper and Learning Together
educational supplement during the first lockdown to support home-learning for children who lacked services such as reliable internet. Find out more about the 'Laptop for Kids' scheme here
A Scottish editor who oversaw 21 weekly newspapers has retired after 34 years in journalism. Janet Bee was responsible for JPIMedia's stable of small Scottish weekly titles. Her deputy, Morag Kuc, has now taken on the titles she oversaw.
Janet began her career on the Midlothian Advertiser in 1986 – one of the titles she managed for JPIMedia. As well as the Midlothian Advertiser
, Janet had overall responsibility for the Arbroath Herald
, Berwickshire News
, Buchan Observer
, Carluke & Lanark Gazette
, Cumbernauld News & Kilsyth Chronicle
, Deeside & Donside Piper
, Ellon Times & Inverurie Herald
, East Fife Mail
, Fife Herald
, Forfar Dispatch
, Fraserburgh Herald
, Galloway Gazette
, Glenrothes Gazette
, Kirkintilloch & Bishopbriggs Herald
, Linlithgow Gazette
, Mearns Leader & Kincardineshire Observer
, Milngavie & Bearsden Herald
, Motherwell Times & Bellshill Speaker
, Southern Reporter
and Stornoway Gazette
UK universities continue to attract former journalists to top posts. Former Channel 4 News
boss, Dorothy Byrne, has been appointed president of Cambridge University's Murray Edwards College.
She joins a long list of prominent media figures heading Oxbridge colleges. They include Alan Rusbridger and Will Hutton, from The Guardian/Observer
, plus Mark Damazer from the BBC, Roger Mosey, the former editor of the BBC 4 Today
programme, and Bridget Rendall, the BBC's former Moscow correspondent.