IPSO Blog: Talking democracy and local media in Sheffield

Standards Officer Rosemary Douce on some of the main points of discussion at IPSO’s latest roadshow.

Our first roadshow of 2019 took us to sunny Sheffield, where an informed panel shared their experiences of working in local media.

The event was chaired by Mark Hanna, co-author of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists, a senior teacher at Sheffield University's Department of Journalism Studies and chair of the NCTJ media law exams board and the panel included:

  • Nancy Fielder – Editor of The Star, Sheffield Telegraph and Doncaster Free Press,
  • Jim Steinke – Sheffield Councillor representing Nether Edge and Sharrow
  • Lucy Ashton – a reporter under the new Local Democracy Reporting Service, and
  • Sir Alan Moses – Chairman of IPSO.

Nancy Fielder explained how reporting has changed since she started in the business. She said: “Many years ago, journalists fretted about print deadlines but now the stories never stop. The Star still prints at half past midnight but if something happens at 1am, reporters have to report it because of the rush to be first with the news, which brings new pressures. Journalists used to get a buzz when they saw the front page, but now reporters can see 10,000 people are reading their articles online which gives a different buzz”.

Nancy also expressed the difficulties reporters have in getting info directly from officials (such as staff in local authority planning departments) to get answers to questions, a point which was echoed by Lucy Ashton.

Lucy talked about some of the difficulties she experienced reporting on the local council who seem to be becoming less ‘forward’ with journalists. Despite these issues, the panel agreed that local authorities remain very open and transparent by comparison to various other public bodies and quangos.

Jim Steinke gave an insight into the work of the council and explained how the role of local media and other organisations coming together is crucial. He said a key part of the work of journalism is scrutiny of those in power.

Sir Alan Moses gave his thoughts on the issues raised by the panellists and also outlined some of the work which IPSO has been doing, for example, providing guidance for journalists on subjects which are often local issues, such as the reporting of suicides or the reporting of deaths and inquests.

The audience had a number of questions on topics such as how hyperlocal publishers might affect media plurality and the level of trust the public has in the media. All four panellists gave their perspectives and it was with some reluctance that the questions eventually had to be wound up!

There are plans for two others around the UK later in the year so keep checking the website for details of future events.