The UK Government's Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, has given the newspaper industry a massive confidence boost during Journalism Matters Week – declaring that the public and the British Government should support 'our world-renowned news industry' by buying newspapers or using news media websites. And she significantly outlined how the industry would be helped by the provisions of the Online Safety Bill which is currently going through parliament.
Outspoken Dorries, 64, a best-selling author and former nurse who grew up on a council house estate in Liverpool, was speaking to the News Media Association (NMA), the trade body which styles itself as 'the voice of national, regional and local news media organisations in the UK', and runs the annual Journalism Matters campaign.
Dorries declared: 'Journalism matters. That's the theme of this national campaign to celebrate the role a free press plays in British society, and it is a powerful statement of fact. But why? It's not just so we can have something entertaining to read with our morning bowl of cornflakes. Our democracy relies on it. Good journalism exposes wrongdoing and injustice; it scrutinises people in power; and it champions and celebrates good causes'.
Dorries, whose ministerial role at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) includes responsibility for delivering government policy on communications and the media, pointed out that at the heart of our news industry are local newspapers – bringing the public trusted local news and information.
She explained: 'Their papers – like the Bedford Times & Citizen
in my own constituency [she has been MP for Mid Bedford since 2005] – are the pillars of their communities. They keep us in the loop with the stories that impact our day-to-day lives – from council or court decisions to the rise and fall of local sports teams. I want to pay tribute to the people who keep those newspapers in print. They work incredibly hard – and not always in the easiest of circumstances – to keep us informed and entertained.
'Their work has become even more important in the internet age. Every day, we all go online and check our Facebook feeds, or scroll through Twitter or Instagram. Each time we do so, we can be exposed to worrying misinformation such as COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories.
'Now more than ever we need properly sourced, robustly researched journalism,' she stressed, explaining: 'According to Ofcom, around two-thirds of people feel that the news they consume from print newspapers is just that: trustworthy, high-quality, and accurate. Journalists are our first line of defence in the fight against fake news.
'We backed news publishers last year with a £35 million public information campaign during the pandemic – pumping vital advertising revenue into publishing. We issued guidance to local authorities to allow newspaper deliveries to continue; zero-rated VAT on e-newspapers to make it easier for people staying at home to read their daily paper; and have extended business rates relief for local newspaper offices in England for an additional five years so that they can keep more of their hard-earned income.'
Dorries pointed out: 'All of that has helped our newspapers get through COVID-19. But we have got to look to the future. We are living in a digital age, and one of the biggest issues in my in-tray as Culture Secretary is making sure big social media platforms protect their users from danger online, including misinformation'.
And she explained, very importantly: 'We have introduced a trailblazing Online Safety Bill that will make us one of the first countries in the world to force tech companies to clean up their sites. But, crucially for journalists, that bill will also prevent social media firms from arbitrarily taking down content from respected news organisations.
'And, even better, it includes extremely important protections and exemptions for journalists, so that we can protect their free speech while forcing social media platforms to police their sites properly.
'We have also got to make sure news publishers and big tech compete on an even playing field – and we have set up a new competition unit charged with making sure the most powerful tech giants do not abuse their dominance to disadvantage businesses that rely on them.
'In government we are doing all we can to help back our brilliant journalists to go about their jobs without fear or favour... you can do the same – by picking up a paper or visiting the websites of our world-renowned news industry.'
Sky News broadcaster, Adam Boulton, is leaving after being with the channel since its launch 33 years ago. He has been editor-at-large since 2014 when he stepped down as political editor after 25 year in that role.
Reading-born Boulton, 62, a graduate of Oxford University, told The Times
that his departure was a 'mutual decision', explaining: 'It looks like the direction which Sky News wants to go over the next few years is not one that's a particularly good fit for me'.
He quoted from an article written by the head of Sky News, John Ryley, for Press Gazette
website, in which Ryley said that the 'age of the all-powerful anchor is gone – instead they share the stage with journalists in the field – providing the audience with the high fibre news they demand'.
Boulton said that Ryley has also made it clear '... he believes the future of news is digital, is on the platform for phones and is very strongly based around data journalism. At that point you do start thinking...'. Boulton revealed that he had always told Ryley: 'I want to work for someone who wants me to work for them,' and he felt that period was ending.
Referring to the Sky News aged 60-and-over presenters like himself, Kay Burley and Dermot Murnaghan, Boulton concluded: 'We have had our day'. Mentioning that Jon Snow was leaving Channel 4 News and Huw Edwards has suggested he may soon leave the BBC, Boulton surmised: 'I think there is a changing of the guard going on, and that may be reasonable'.
The editorial staff of JPIMedia's three Edinburgh-based titles – The Scotsman
, Edinburgh Evening News
and Scotland on Sunday
– will early next year decant from their current office base in Orchard Brae House, on Queensferry Road, to a new HQ in George Street, operated by WeWork, which features casual working space along with hot desks, catering facilities and relaxation areas.
editor, Neil McIntosh, broke the news to journalists by explaining that the current office has been largely deserted since COVID-19 struck: with editorial staff working from home, it had consequently become 'increasingly anachronistic'.
The journalists have been based at Orchard Brae House since 2014 after moving from Barclay House in Holyrood Road. The Scotsman's
iconic former city centre office on North Bridge, where it was housed for close on 100 years prior to 2001, is now an hotel.
A JPIMedia spokeswoman told us: 'This is a natural step for the team in Edinburgh as JPIMedia employees have now successfully adopted a combination of home working, working in the office and a hybrid working environment. The goal was to find a more appropriate, flexible, future-proofed office arrangement – back into the heart of the local community'.
Edinburgh Evening News
editor, Euan McGrory, promptly tweeted: 'It will be great to be right back in the heart of Edinburgh's city centre'.
Meanwhile, Scottish website, Daily Business
, reveals: 'Latest figures show The Scotsman
continuing to haemorrhage sales. The average daily sale for January to July 2021 was 10,021, of which only 5,007 are over-the-counter purchases. The average sale of Scotland on Sunday
in 2020 was 6,843, of which 4,766 were paid single copies. The Edinburgh Evening News
had an average daily sale in 2020 of 10,618 and had a higher proportion of over-the-counter sales at 9,619'.
Northern Ireland's Banbridge Chronicle
weekly newspaper could be saved from closure by Scottish publisher, DNG Media, which is 'close to a deal' to buy the paper, according to a report in The Irish News
Annan-headquartered DNG Media's current portfolio includes three paid-for weeklies – the Annandale Herald
, Moffat News
and the Annadale Observer
– plus the Dumfries Courier
free newspaper. Its titles sell in more than half of Dumfries and Galloway, as well as parts of the Scottish Borders and north Cumbria.
DNG has emerged as the front-runner to acquire the County Down title from the Hodgett family, who also own the Newry Reporter
. It was announced in early October that the Banbridge Chronicle
would be forced to close because of cash-flow problems if a buyer could not be found.
However, its directors have subsequently revealed: 'Negotiations for the sale of the newspaper are at an advanced stage. In the meantime, the Banbridge Chronicle
will continue to be published in the coming weeks'.
Shares in ITV have soared after the broadcaster forecast a rise of 24% in its annual advertising sales. It reported that in the nine months to 30 September, total external revenue was up 28% – at £2.38 billion compared to £1.86 billion in 2020. The company said it has a strong programming slate going into next year as it continues to invest in content, and chief executive, Carolyn McCall, declared: 'By any standards ITV has had an outstanding nine months'.
Russ Mould, investment director at Manchester-based AJ Bell, which provides online investment platforms and stockbroker services, pointed out: 'For the business to be on course for the highest advertising revenue in its history is an impressive achievement. It underlines the continued relevance of television as a medium to advertisers given its reach'.
Mould added interestingly, if speculatively: 'The question now is what next for ITV amid rumours it might bid for its free-to-air counterpart Channel 4 if the government pushes ahead with a privatisation of the latter. There is some logic to such a move as it would help ITV reach a different audience and secure access to some valuable content'.