Trenchant, indignant post by Kevin Marsh on the BBC College of Journalism site reacting to people claiming that newspapers are owed a living because Britain has the best press in the world. He rightly zeroes in on the fact that editors and journalists lost sight of the fact that readers have gradually lost interest in what newspapers have to tell them over the past 20 years – for the simple reason that the journalism they produce is valued less highly.
If people thought that we have the best newspapers on the planet, Marsh says, “…a quarter of those who used to buy them wouldn’t have stopped doing so over the past 20 years – a desertion that long predates the web, incidentally. If we did, our press wouldn’t be one of the least trusted institutions in the land and our newspaper journalists the least trusted in the world.”
I’m wary of most trust figures – not because journalists are trusted, but because they apparently weren’t trusted when newspapers were genuinely popular – but Marsh’s point about the fall in perceived value is dead on and the one that newspaper journalists (in particular) don’t want to face. More on that here.
Where I think Marsh is wrong is in his assumption that all journalism can be freed from risk of criticism of its methods if only everyone would follow the BBC rules. He’s picked up on this in an equally robust comment on his post by James Goffin, who points out that good journalism often sails close to the edge (he cites the Daily Telegraph paying for the disc withthe unexpurgated MPs expenses data).