Why the media is stronger together

I’ve been holding out for some heroes in recent days.

I’m aiming to highlight one a week as I teach some of our students about politics.

It’s by far and away my favourite thing to teach.

Because, as campaigning reporter Gavin MacFadyen once said: “Good journalism is always political journalism.”

Every week, I’ll be spending a minute or two on one of my journalism heroes – starting on Monday with the woman who asked Donald Trump that question, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.

To come are Manchester Evening News social affairs editor Jennifer Williams, HSJ reporter Shaun Lintern and Andrew Norfolk from The Times, among others.

All of them have exposed major failings in public services.

And all of them are true to a description of journalism that I have come to only recently.

The late and much-missed New York journalist Wayne Barrett said reporters were ‘detectives for the people.’

Gratifyingly, it’s a theme that came up an awful lot when my colleagues and I were interviewing would-be students a few days ago. Several talked about journalism being the bridge between the people and the powers-that-be, a way of making sense of the world, and a vital tool in holding authority to account.

Not so gratifyingly, waves of cuts have left newsrooms woefully underpowered in this battle.

Which is why the announcement from the BBC of 150 extra reporters to cover local authorities across Britain is a welcome one.


It might be that is a sticking plaster solution for severed limb, as Press Gazette editor Dom Ponsford called it. And I share the concern of people who say the licence fee shouldn’t be used to subsidise businesses with avaricious shareholders.

It’s time the newspaper industry stopped wasting its breath on railing against the BBC

But there is much work to be done in patrolling the corridors of power, and still plenty of hope that true public service journalism can command an audience.

Some of this hope emerges in the fantastic labour of love that is the fascinating book Lost for Words: How Can Journalism Survive the Decline of Print?

While still more is suggested by new research showing how much time people spend on reading print journalism.

On Monday, I’ll be taking some of our students to our regional BBC TV studios to further a potential partnership there. Last Thursday, one of the newsdesk team from our local Trinity Mirror newsroom helped out at a news day.

We’re in the process of developing stronger links with our BBC radio station, with Newsquest newsrooms, and with independent websites and magazines.

In our privileged position, we can see that all providers of journalism face similar problems.

It’s time the newspaper industry stopped wasting its breath on railing against the BBC for overblown past slights, and started seeing broadcasters as allies.

In America, Trump has forced media outlets to co-operate and support each other in the common cause of holding him to account.

We can make it work here, too.