UK newspapers and magazines have been highly praised by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) in The Covid Report
– its own analysis of press reporting between March 2020 and April 2021.
(HTFP), reports that the press watchdog has lauded titles that 'saved lives' during the coronavirus crisis. Fewer than 10% of complaints it received over the year related to coverage of the pandemic. IPSO found 3,102 complaints were made about COVID-19 coverage in the titles which it regulates during the 2020-2021 period – representing just 9.7% of all the complaints it had received. Of those, 77 investigations had been opened, resulting in 47 rulings and 38 corrections being published.
IPSO's chairman, Lord Faulks, declared: 'I have no doubt that journalism published by IPSO-regulated titles over the last 18 months saved lives – both in the UK and around the world. I hope that this report will help to inform editorial decision-making over the next period of the pandemic and beyond, as well as highlighting the important role that IPSO regulation plays in ensuring a quality, accountable press'.
Charlotte Dewar, IPSO's chief executive, added: 'There is no doubt that COVID-19 will continue to present challenges for press regulation and the newspaper and magazine industries. While IPSO identified some cases where individual pieces of journalism had fallen short of the standards set by the Editors' Code, there is also much to be positive about.
'The pandemic has demonstrated the value of accountable news in an unprecedented way. IPSO will continue to do its part to ensure that readers can find accurate information on critical issues like public health.'
HTFP reveals that The Covid Report
has been warmly welcomed by Fiona Fox, chief executive of The Science Media Centre. It quotes Fox as saying: 'Unlike in other countries, the UK press has managed to hang onto its science and health specialist journalists, and this was critical to the high standards of reporting we witnessed during the pandemic.
'Research showed that what readers wanted was in-depth reporting that they could trust and the simple explainers that would help them understand all aspects of a complex new virus.
'The scientific community I work with understood and appreciated the value of responsible science journalism more than ever before. When the public needed the very best standards of journalism, the UK press rose to the challenge.'
Two high-profile Scottish-born broadcasters are on the move. Andrew Marr is leaving the BBC after 21 years for commercial radio, while Sarah Smith, who was appointed the corporation's first-ever Scotland editor seven years ago, is replacing Jon Sopel as the BBC's North America editor, based in Washington.
Glasgow-born Andrew Marr's departure from the BBC hasn't surprised too many people in the media – the reason behind it heavily hinted at in his carefully nuanced explanation: 'I want to get my own voice back'. Marr, 62, part-educated in Dundee and a Cambridge University graduate who also co-hosts BBC Radio 4's Start the Week
, began his journalistic career in newspapers, including The Scotsman
, and editing The Independent
in the 1990s. He was political editor of the BBC from 2000-2005 and he has presented a Sunday morning programme since 2005.
Marr is joining Global, Europe's largest commercial radio company, to host an 'opinion-led programme' on LBC and a new show on Classic FM. He will also write for newspapers. He points out: 'Joining Global gives me a new freedom – to do fast-paced, very regular political journalism on LBC with no filter – in entirely my own voice'. His Classic FM show will involve interviewing guests from the worlds of politics and the arts. He will also front a new Global podcast.
His departure is unrelated to the UK Government's Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, publicly questioning his impartiality in conducting a recent interview with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Marr responded acerbically to Dorries in an article in The Spectator
, declaring: 'Well, there is literally nobody on this little blue planet who doesn't have opinions. At the BBC we do our level best to leave them at the door but if you don't have some opinions you aren't thinking, and if you aren't thinking, how useful a political interviewer could you be?'
BBC director-general Tim Davie praised the departing Marr as 'a brilliant journalist and presenter during his time at the BBC. He leaves an unmatched legacy of outstanding political interviews and landmark programmes'. Marr joins other former BBC broadcasters at LBC – including Scottish-born Eddie Mair.
Edinburgh-born Sarah Smith, 53, an Edinburgh University graduate, began her journalistic career as a trainee at BBC Scotland. She rejoined the corporation in 2014 as Scotland editor after several years in the US working for Channel 4 where she covered major American news stories including the 2008 Presidential Election and the global financial crash.
The news that the Sunday Express
has won its campaign – Fund the right to cure MND – which called on the UK Government to grant £50 million to conduct research into a cure for motor neurone disease, has a special poignancy for media folk in Aberdeen.
The death of Bert Ovenstone from MND in November came just five years after Aberdeen-based freelance photographer Donald Stewart lost his life to the disease, aged 62. St Andrews-born Bert, 70, who had moved from Aberdeen to live in North Kessock, began his career on the Fife Herald
and spent two periods in the newsroom of The Press and Journal
(P&J), latterly as night news editor. In the intervening years, he had been news editor at Grampian Television.
Donald had been a staff photographer on Aberdeen's Evening Express
before setting-up a highly successful freelance agency in the city.
The Sunday Express
joined forces with patients, campaigners and charities to call for the money to create an MND Research Institute. Boris Johnson announced the new funding in a column in the Sunday Express
, expressing his delight in 'wholeheartedly backing' the campaign's crusade.
Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Evening Post
has repeated its demand for a knighthood to be bestowed upon former Leeds Rhinos rugby league player, Kevin Sinfield, who has raised close on £4 million in aid of MND research since his former teammate Rob Burrow was diagnosed with the condition.
Obituary writing can sometimes reveal almost as much about the writer as their subject. Thus I was doubly struck by an obituary in The Herald
on journalist Russell Steele, 75, who had worked for most Scottish newspapers during his career – the titles including The Herald
, Glasgow Times
, Scottish Daily Express
, Scottish Daily Mail
, Scottish Daily News
, Daily Record
and Sunday Mail
The beautifully crafted obituary was contributed by freelance sportswriter, Hugh MacDonald, who has written for The Herald
for more than 40 years – both as a long-serving staffman and now as a Saturday columnist.
Although Hugh paid eloquent tribute to Russell's extensive journalistic achievements, what so touched me about the obituary was how he so movingly painted a picture of what was demonstrably a thoroughly decent human being.
Of Russell, Hugh stressed: 'His greatest gift, though, was his generosity of spirit that extended powerfully into his private life. Rusty was one of the good guys. He was a distinguished, articulate and highly intelligent man but it was other qualities, pure in their almost childlike simplicity, that made him so beloved. He was unconditional in his love for family and friends'.
And, he added, in a sentence laden with meaning, which will strike a familiar chord with many of us media folks: 'Russell was toothless when it came to back-biting. He rose above the mire that can sully even the innocent in a brutal business'.
Hugh's words conveyed to us all we need know about Russell Steele's inherent humanity. I have never met or spoken to Hugh. However, I feel his choice of words in his paean of praise on the qualities of his former colleague and friend must also reveal much about Hugh's own inherent humanity.
Dundee-based publisher DC Thomson has added to its growing podcast portfolio with the launch of My Weekly's Magical Flying Bookshop
. Created and hosted by My Weekly
journalist Claire Gill, each episode invites a popular author to read from their latest book; answer readers' questions; and recommend the books that they have loved. Authors such as Ann Cleeves, Sophie Kinsella, Dr Hilary Jones and Dorothy Koomson are set to feature on the podcast's first season.
Stuart Johnstone, editor of My Weekly
, a women's magazine, first published in 1910, tells us: 'My Weekly
will always be the magazine we all love, but we recognise that there are so many ways to connect with people these days. The launch of our Magical Flying Bookshop
podcast will entice new readers into the brand and give our current loyal readership some fabulous free content around the wonderful world of fiction'.
Claire Gill explains: 'Our research showed that our readers were starting to listen to podcasts, and coupled with the fantastic response we had from our live event with author Adele Parks, a gem of an idea started to form in my mind – a podcast. It needed to be atmospheric, keeping in with My Weekly's
brand, and ultimately something for the readers: time for themselves'.
has a weekly average readership of more than 200,000, with a growing subscription base.