Society calls on government to ensure news provision and distribution during Covid-19 outbreak

Posted on: March 20, 2020 by Claire Meadows

The Society of Editors (SoE) has written to the government urging it to ensure the UK population continues to have access to vital news and information produced through the mainstream media during this time of crisis.

In a letter sent to Number 10, the Home Secretary Priti Patel MP, and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden MP, the SoE urged the government to continue recognising the essential role played by the media and to ensure newsagents and other outlets remained open if the nation faces more restrictions on movement as the Covid-19 crisis deepens.

The Society has also welcomed the designation of all journalists as key workers. 

“It is heartening that the government has put store in the role of the media, ensuring there are daily news updates from Number 10 and making ministers available for interview,” commented SoE executive director Ian Murray.

“Their actions underscore the vital role the mainstream media plays in keeping the nation informed and indeed the growth in numbers of people turning to trusted, recognised news brands shows how much value is put in the reputation established over decades for factual, reliable information.

“But as the UK faces the probability of more restrictions in an attempt to contain the virus, that flow of information is important to maintain if the public are to continue to have faith in those making decisions for them. Not everyone has access to broadband, especially the elderly who are among the most at risk. It is essential that such outlets as newsagents, petrol stations and small corner stores that provide newspapers are allowed to remain open as well as the larger supermarkets and other vital services.

“It is correct that journalists are recognised as key workers and it is important that it is not just broadcasters but also newspapers, both national and local, that are seen as vital to providing important information to the public.”

The SoE has also thrown its weight behind media initiatives to support the public, including today’s unique coming together of almost all regional and local newspapers to carry the same front page as part of the #ThereWithYou campaign initiated by the News Media Association (NMA).

The London Evening Standard is another publication that has assured readers it is with them in the battle to beat the virus, with its editorial stance calling in the capital’s residents to pull together.

Other national newspapers have taken similar stances along with the BBC and other broadcasters.

“At this time of national uncertainty the media has a part to play in both keeping the nation informed and also providing support and comfort. It is not a mouthpiece for the government and will always scrutinise its work. But while it remains independent of the state, and rightly so, the industry recognises it serves the people first and foremost,” added Murray.

The SoE will be launching a new service next week to provide regular updates on actions being taken by the media to support and inform the public.

More information on the Regional Press #ThereWithYou campaign here

More information on the Evening Standard’s pledge to readers here