Delivering Quality Journalism

James Evelegh's editorial from today’s edition of InPubWeekly.

By James Evelegh

Delivering Quality Journalism
Tip # 4: Use robots to set your journalists free.

More from last week’s excellent London Press Club debate: Can quality journalism survive in a world of fake news and social media?

There was inevitably some discussion around definitions. What exactly do we mean by ‘quality journalism’ and ‘fake news’? “Reporting what’s happening, why things matter, holding power to account and uncovering wrongdoing”, seems a good working definition of the former and “deliberate misinformation” the latter.

Implicit in any discussion on the viability of quality journalism, is how best to deliver it. After listening to the panel, I have five recommendations for publishing management:

  1. Get your journalists out of the office. Desk-bound journalists, sitting waiting for the next inbound bit of PR, or Tweet, are never going to produce quality journalism. They need to get stuck in – make contacts, talk to people face-to-face, question them. They need to own the story.
  2. Encourage best practice. All the stuff they learn on their training courses needs to be reinforced by you, not undermined. Be accurate, check facts, don’t rely on single sources.
  3. Build trust. There are no short cuts and, as we all know, trust takes years to build and seconds to destroy. Consistency, honesty and objectivity should underpin everything. Codes of conduct are there for a reason.
  4. Use robots to set your journalists free. Advances in AI mean that some of the bread and butter reporting can be automated. The aim is not to replace humans but to free up their time to do more of the quality, creative stuff.
  5. Make sure your newsrooms are representative of the community you serve: gender, ethnicity, religion, class. How can you connect with your audience if you can’t relate to them?

(Panel: Jane Barrett, Martin Bentham, Polly Curtis, Jodie Ginsberg. Chair: Michael Hayman.)