Journalism Matters: Has the pandemic revived our appreciation for journalism?

by Suzie Bird

9th October 2020

As we come to the close of ‘Journalism Matters Week’, we have been reflecting on the importance of the media and independent journalism for both the communications industry and the wider population.

In our current world full of misinformation and fake news surrounding Covid-19 and beyond, the importance of trustworthy sources of news has been thrust into the spotlight.

What Happens Without Journalism?

The World Without News study, by Newsworks , revealed that UK adults who had not had access to newspapers and online sources for several months, felt more anxious than those with unlimited access. There has also been a rise in young adults fact checking their own information, with 77% reporting that once they’ve seen ‘news’ on social media, they have visited respected publications to ascertain whether the information is credible.

News surrounds us. Whether it is celebrity updates via social media, alerts to our phones or traditional newspapers, we are constantly consuming information. As the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter pledge to fact check shared information to dispel the spread of fake news, misinformation and political propaganda, access to quality journalism is crucial.

Without access to the news, we become anxious

The World Without News found that withdrawing access to up-to-date information throws our lives off balance. Participants were left lost, unsure of current updates and topics of discussion at a local and global level. They were also unclear on how to position themselves within their personal and professional lives. As over or under exposure to news sources has been proven to increase anxiety, it is evident that we are in need of a healthier balance in consumption of information.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the closure of many publications. While publications such as City A.M. have had to close their print editions completely, others have had to find ways to keep copies circulating despite reduced footfall, for instance, the Evening Standard. As many journalists face furlough and redundancy, it begs the question, do we value the news industry as highly as previous generations?

What role does journalism play in the media landscape today?

Providing constant access to verified information on government updates as the pandemic rages on has proved the ultimate test for many publications across the globe.

It’s become clear that during the pandemic, journalism has a vital role to play. It should challenge those in power, question policies, and analyse organisations’ responses to Covid-19.

Whether they’ve been championing suffering communities and sectors, or reporting the good news stories we long to hear, journalists have been at the forefront of uncovering and delivering live information to the masses, proving to be a real comfort to many during such a testing time.

It seems strange that we need a week to remind everyone of the importance of journalism. Yet, it is essential. We’re more connected than ever before, with unprecedented access to news and reporting from any country in the world.

But, with this constant and immersive stream of information, it feels as if the value we place on journalism has lessened. In surrounding ourselves with news and content, have we become disassociated with how lucky we are to have access to a wealth of knowledge?

As the week dedicated to the significance of journalism ends, it will be interesting to see what the next few months hold for the media publishing industry.

Journalism is, of course, critically important to society and democracy. With 66% of UK adults reporting that they value the news more since the start of the pandemic, I hope that the importance of reporting the news is placed in higher regard by the channels that distribute to those who consume it.

We look forward to hearing more from The World Without News later this month, when Newsworks, the News Media Association and the Society of Editors will reveal further findings from their research.