Worrying figures that reveal almost half of people think that the standards of journalism in the UK have declined in the last five years show how dangerous the fake news debate has become, the Society of Editors has warned.
The YouGov poll is quoted in the latest update from the Cairncross Review looking into the future of the UK’s independent media. The Commission has announced it will travel to Brussels to seek evidence of how European countries are tackling the threats to established newspapers.
The YouGov survey found that 47 per cent of those asked, believed that the quality of news reporting had declined in the last five years.
“One has to speculate how much of this impression is based on the constant background noise from some politicians and other commentators about fake news,” commented the Society of Editors Executive Director Ian Murray.
“Certainly, the Society of Editors sees no evidence of failing standards of journalism in this country, on the contrary, media outlets including the national and regional press have striven to inform the public of the very complex issues surrounding so many of the nation’s important debates. But it is not surprising that the public may consider they are not being best served by the media if they hear so many senior figures using the term ‘fake news’ to undermine any reports they are unhappy with.
“There is indeed a real problem of fake news where erroneous reports are fabricated for a variety of purposes, but there is no evidence this is being carried out by the established media.”
The YouGov survey findings also indicate there is a disconnect between the belief by the majority of people that they have access to sufficient local news and the actual numbers who seek out regional and local newspapers.
The survey results show that although local or regional news is important to 76% of those who regularly access news, just 13% of adults said they access news via a printed local or regional newspaper, and 13% say they access a local newspaper online. However almost two thirds (61%) said enough local news was provided for them where they live.
“The annoying problem for many local and regional newspaper editors is the simple fact that while their journalists attend courts and councils and continue to provide so much of the local news for the communities they serve, once a story has been published it is there for others to pick up and present on their own platforms,” added Murray. “You can’t blame the public for caring less where the news originally comes from as long as it is accurate, fair and balanced.
“So, while it is heartening to see that local news remains such an important factor in the lives of so many people, these statistics prove that the local and regional press needs to do all it can to remind communities of the vital role they play and at what cost would be their demise.”
The Cairncross Review, commissioned by the Prime Minister in January, has been tasked with looking at ways to safeguard the future of the UK’s free, independent and high-quality news in the digital age.
The online YouGov survey of British adults’ newspaper habits, reported by the Review, found that for the first time, more people are now regularly accessing content from national newspapers online, through apps and websites, than in print (28% to 22%). It also revealed:
· Two thirds (68%) of British online adults regularly access news through the internet.
· Almost half of those who regularly access news (47%) admit they are accessing news in more ways now, compared to five years ago
· Almost a third (31%) of those who regularly access news said they pay more attention to what they read in a printed newspaper than to news they read online, although most (55%) say they pay the same level of attention to both
· TV and Radio remain the most popular platforms for accessing news – 58% regularly access news from TV and 43% from Radio
· This compares with 29% of adults online stating they access news through social media feeds such as Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat