Sunday 21 July 2019

#JournalismMatters - outlets rally together to highlight value of news media

Ian Begley and Ryan Nugent

NEWS outlets nationwide are joining forces in a campaign to safeguard the role of the press.

National and local media have rallied to the campaign - led by Newsbrands Ireland - to highlight the important role played by the press in safeguarding democracy.

This week will see national and local news publishers across the country collectively publishing editorials which celebrate the value of an independent press.

Organisers are also calling on the Government to support a number of measures being sought by the news industry to ensure its future. journalist Conor Feehan said he believes news outlets provide a crucial platform for the voiceless and often have the power to bring about real change.

An example of this, he said, is the homelessness crisis, the biggest social issue in Ireland at the moment.

In a video posted online, Mr Feehan speaks of how he spotted a tent on the grass in front of a five-star hotel.

He said: "We walked across the wet field in the rain and suddenly you're standing looking down at this pitiful sight of a small tent with a hole in the roof covered by a plastic bag.

"A man then came out of that tent and told us everything about himself.

"But once we printed the story, people started to come directly into the field to give him supplies, provisions and advice.

"And he has largely come out the other side of it - all of that happened because we told his story.

"If there's an issue that's affecting society we always try and get to the human side of it. That will often lead to a growing sense of public anger about a situation and that's when you will see authorities like governments suddenly react.

"If we don't do that, their voices remain silent, their problems remain unsolved and if we don't tell their stories who does?"

In a separate video, his colleague Charlie Weston highlighted the importance of breaking the story of the tracker mortgage scandal.

He said he knew something untoward was going on.

"If you have enough evidence that something is wrong, you'll eventually prove your case," he said.

"It may take a lot of time, it may take nine years, but that's what it took.

"An awful lot of people are reaping the benefits of that now."

The #JournalismMatters campaign calls on the Government to use Budget 2019 to deliver on a five-point-plan for the industry:

* Reduce VAT on newspapers and digital products to 5pc in Budget 2019. Ireland currently has one of the highest rates in Europe.

* Reform Ireland's draconian defamation laws to ensure that the stories that need to be told, are told.

* Appoint a Minister for Media - a single member of the Cabinet should have oversight of all aspects of our complex media landscape.

* Establish a News Publishers Media Fund to drive innovation and investment.

* Invest in a training support scheme for all journalists.

Irish Independent

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