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CONVERSATION | 'Who cares about public interest news?'

In 2012, Lord Inglewood chaired the House of Lords Inquiry that recommended financial incentives to support investigative journalism. Seven years later, Dame Frances Cairncross chaired a review which recommended new subsidies for local journalism.

In their first public conversation, Lord Inglewood and Dame Frances Cairncross joined IMPRESS CEO Jonathan Heawood at the Trust in Journalism Conference 2019 to discuss the challenges facing public interest journalism in 2019 and ahead.

Asked about the challenges of sustaining public interest journalism, Dame Frances Cairncross highlighted the difficulties of securing funding:

“It’s very hard to know how to create pools of finance for this type of journalism. The [Cairncross] review struggled a bit to think where the money could come from that was going to sustain the bits of journalism that we really cared about, which were investigative journalism (…) and what we call public interest journalism; reporting of the instruments of public life and democracy, whether it be local councils or local hospitals, or whether it be parliament itself.”

Jonathan Heawood pressed the pair to consider ‘where’s the finger of blame to be pointed? Who took away the golden age of public interest reporting?’

Lord Inglewood: “One of the lessons of history seems to me that there are always technological changes that are taking place and they often have very unanticipated consequences and however much you may regret what has happened you cannot put the genie back in the bottle (...)

What we have got to do in thinking about these things is not hark back to the golden age, but instead is to look forward and see how we might go about dealing with the mischief's which we are facing.”

On how to tackle those mischiefs, Lord Inglewood said:

“Journalists have a serious moral imperative to be honourable about what they’re doing, but if it’s essentially bar-room banter [you are publishing] you are not best serving the moral traditions of the profession you are all in.”

Dame Frances added:

‘News organisations have to be much more cunning in working out which parts of the great department store of stories they are used to publishing that somebody actually wants in order to survive.’

The IMPRESS Trust in Journalism Conference 2019 took place in London on 14 November 2019.


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