The annual debate welcomed representatives from BBC, The Independent, PA Media and The Economist.
Against the backdrop of Trump, covid-19 misinformation and conspiracies, trusted journalism has been a major talking point in our industry.
Chaired by The Economist’s senior editor and broadcaster Anne McElvoy, Phillips was joined by The Independent’s defence and diplomatic editor Kim Sengupta, PA Media’s managing director Polly Curtis and BBC’s director of World Service Group Jamie Angus.
To set the scene, the panellists discussed the impact of the pandemic. Angus said it had driven audiences back to news, something that was echoed by Phillips who spoke about a resurgence in readership with the Mirror seeing an extra billion page views in 2020.
Although the pandemic has resulted in higher news readership, it has also put into focus the problems of misinformation. Angus pointed out that news competitors are no longer each other, but the growth of fake news, which in some cases is often state-sponsored.
Sengupta agreed, he said that some authorities across the globe have used the pandemic as a way to restrict the work of journalists by accusing them of spreading lies.
All agreed that trusted journalism is key to the success of news. Curtis and Phillips went on to talk about the special relationship news media have with their readers and a big part of that unique relationship says Phillips is sticking to principles when it comes to creating content. Conspiracy theories spread like wildfire, resulting in the need for news brands to fill that space with trusted information.
The panel concluded that the future of media is bright. And with the pandemic resulting in a growth in readership, now is the time – as Phillips puts it – to be clear about what news brands stand for.
The debate is part of the London Press Club’s annual debate series that in the past has focused on key topics such as equal pay and opportunities for women and investigative journalism in a digital world.
The virtual event was organised by the London Press Club, in association with the Society of Editors and in partnership with Stationers & Newspaper-makers.