IPSO Blog: Talking local journalism in Newcastle

Policy and Public Affairs Officer Sophie Malleson shares her thoughts on discussions at our recent Newcastle roadshow.

Last week we travelled to Newcastle to deliver a public event in partnership with the University of Newcastle’s Civic Journalism Lab. The Northern Echo’s editor Hannah Chapman spoke alongside Scunthorpe Live and Grimsby Live’s Digital Editor, Jamie Macaskill and IPSO’s Chairman, Sir Alan Moses. Ian Wylie of the CJL chaired the evening and facilitated discussion on the role of the press in an age of disinformation and fake news.

A range of topics were covered in the discussion: the changing nature of the way people access their news & media; how traditional publications are creative with their online reporting; and how “fake news” means different things to different people.

When listening to panel speak, I was struck most of all by the importance of the relationship that exists between a trusted local press and the community it serves. A trusted paper will inform, educate and entertain its readers whilst campaigning for good causes that make a real difference to people’s lives.

Digital Editor Jamie Macaskill gave us a clear example of when their publication’s trusted presence in the community brought a story directly to them. An anonymous whistle-blower from Scunthorpe’s children’s services approached the paper after their serious concerns about service failures went ignored by the local authority. Some of the most vulnerable children in the North East were being let down. Publishing the story resulted in improvements being made to the children’s services, which no doubt made a positive impact.

Hannah Chapman, the Editor of the Northern Echo, outlined the effort that goes in to getting facts right before going to print; the double-checking and the verification from different sources. She mentioned the added importance of these processes where there’s a possibility that, as a journalist or editor, you might bump in to the subject of your latest article the pub after work. That’s a big incentive to get the facts right and the story on point!

All of the press (whether a national tabloid, daily broadsheet or a weekly local) relies on its readers. They do not want to be (or, be seen to be) peddlers of “fake news” in the form of flawed journalism or inaccurate reporting.

From listening to these editors, I left Newcastle with the impression that accurate reporting was especially important for the local and regional press and that there's a real sense of accountability when you, as a journalist, live and work in the local community you serve.