IPSO Blog: Chief Executive Charlotte Dewar on why Journalism Matters

IPSO Chief Executive Charlotte Dewar on why and how Journalism Matters and IPSO’s support for the News Media Association’s week celebrating the craft

On a visit to Belfast last week, I had the privilege to see first-hand the resilience and dedication of the editors and journalists behind the city’s extraordinarily rich and diverse newspaper industry. 

The Belfast Telegraph, the Belfast News Letter, and the Irish News have been meeting the extraordinary times they have witnessed with extraordinary journalism.  

This is a city whose newspapers are very aware of how high the stakes are for their nation and their readers as they report the most significant events, including political developments and major investigations of organised crime and terrorism. 

But the reasons that journalism matters aren’t just about big dramatic stories like these, involving arrests, police raids, or public figures in disgrace. On visits to local and regional newsrooms of the publications we regulate, I am invariably struck by the passion for reporting and discussion of issues that directly relate to people’s lives. 

It is the real-life experience of readers that matters: local journalism roots the national debate in our local communities in an unrivalled way. 

Every form of journalism that encourages people to engage in debate is essential. Journalism isn’t just about “big issues” like public safety, crime, wars and famines; it’s also about keeping in touch with all the small things that are going on around us. It’s reading a piece about the ethics of the new season of The Crown and then discussing it over the lunch table with colleagues, or getting breaking news about the cast of the new season of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! 

IPSO plays an important role here. Our work helps to raise standards of reporting and offers recourse for people who have been wronged. 

We believe that through our regulatory approach, and by working closely with newspapers, magazines and their digital platforms, we will encourage high standards in the press, whatever the format, channel, or subject of the coverage. In turn there is commercial value here in helping publishers to make the case to readers that quality journalism is worth paying for. 

It has been good see a clear demonstration of political consensus this Journalism Matters week. 

In opinion pieces to mark the week both Michelle Donelan, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary and the Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, praise the UK’s extraordinary journalists and discuss how the trade can be protected and flourish. 

The high-quality journalism this country can be rightly proud of should be nurtured in the face of the wild west of online competition. The risk to the economic viability of our publishers must be tackled urgently. There is a confidence among publishers that they can meet the online challenges – but the system needs to be fair; and prevent the digital behemoths from creaming off the commercial value created by journalists. 

We are delighted that the Government has established the Digital Media Unit within the Competition and Markets Authority. It now needs the powers to ensure a level playing field between the tech giants and the UK’s news and magazine titles. 

There is no time to waste here and legislation – which now has broad Parliamentary support – should be prioritised. 

This makes sense for our democracy and makes sense for our economy: particularly for journalism which champions our communities across the UK. 

Published 1 November 2022