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Media Alert 23 Jan

A round-up of the hottest takes from the best UK Indy Media.


In this week’s edition of Media Alert:

  • A Social media crises of confidence,
  • A hard-right hero falls for spoof,
  • And our Picks of The Week!

Media Alert is a weekly bulletin discussing issues impacting on the UK independent media and highlighting some of the best recent work from the sector.

It’s brought to you by The Media Fund, a co-operative of over 30 partners seeking to raise funds and advocate for quality independent journalism.


The Week’s Big Stories

Essential news from the frontlines of media politics


Falling Trust in Social Media

A new survey showing falling trust in social media as a news source has been trumpeted by establishment organisations, such as The Times and The Telegraph.

The annual Edelman Trust Barometer unsurprisingly cites “fake news”, propaganda and tribalism as some of the reasons behind only 24% of people in the UK stating confidence in what they see via social media.

The excitement of the early years of mass internet, with an increasingly bewildering array of choice of online outlets, has long since worn off. Bruce Springsteen once complained of “57 channels and nothing on” in relation to the satellite TV market. Perhaps people are starting to feel this way about news sources online.

There are certainly big challenges for independent news sources in how they are perceived, and Media Alert will be looking more deeply into these in future editions. But there’d be little point in establishment operations crowing too much about the survey’s findings. With such a large proportion of commercial marketing budgets now going to platforms like Facebook and Google rather than news producers themselves, there’s less money for quality, in-depth journalism across the board.

The mainstream market has come to be seen as out of touch, narrow and too easily a cipher for propaganda, PR, and churnalism”. It is partly such frustrations which made the public so keen to look for alternatives in the first place.

This is a very complex issue. For example, we increasingly find links to establishment news sources via social media platforms anyway and just because people scoff at the idea of believing online sources when talking to a survey, do they consistently maintain that skepticism in practice? How many would say they don’t believe traditional TV news and papers, but then voice opinions that are strikingly similar to the lines those organisations put out?

The survey records a rise in trust for traditional sources, but could this just be relative to the distrust of alternatives, rather than the traditional sources suddenly becoming innately more trustworthy?

We should beware of the simplistic, know-all complacency of any implication that traditional sources are basically good, with newer alternatives automatically laden with the dreaded, mercurial “fake news” tag.

It’s not just that legacy media is often seen as sanctimonious, stale and produced by and for the 1%. Independent media often produces high-quality work and commentary in fields that others are less inclined to investigate. Such work is increasingly referenced in mainstream sources too, as detailed in this review of 2017 by just one Media Fund partner, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Here are 5 more great stories broken by independent media.


Suckers for Satire

Linked to some of the issues discussed above is the question of how hastily we make decisions about something being truthful?

This is a hilarious tale of how an overrated rightist (and child abuse apologist) fell straight into a very simple trap.

The spoof claimed: “A landmark legal case at the High Court in London ended today with a panel of senior judges ruling that the NHS acted in a ‘discriminatory manner’ by no offering a cervical smear test to as 32-year-old man from Essex.”

There are quite a lot of parody websites around these days. Some, like Newsthump or The Daily Harold, can be quite obvious in what they do. Others, like Southend News Network, can be a LITTLE more subtle, i.e. a plausible sounding name and you might have to get to the second paragraph before you work out you are being played.

Milo Yiannopoulos isn’t the only one who didn’t bother to actually read what he was frothing about, but the incident raises a broader question: are we as discerning as we should be?

How many of those who would tell a survey that they don’t trust stories on social media might still believe satirical stories at first sight without the merest interrogation?


Picks of The Week

Our hand-picked selections from some of the best independent journalism around.


Ink it Onto Your Knuckles – Carillion is How Neoliberalism Lives and Breathes – Paul Mason, Novara Media.

Carillion’s collapse has been the major UK domestic story of the last week. Two generation into a zealous agenda of privatisation, many establishment journalists have been furrowing their brows at how such things could happen: vast amounts of public money vanishing into infrastructure projects; profits off-shored; huge rip-off contracts lazily doled out; directors paid fortunes; vital services and 10,000 jobs jeopardised; short-selling sharks with close ties to government making fortunes from Carillion’s collapse…

There has been less tendency to wonder if such outcomes are features of the system rather than bugs.

Novara Media has done some great work covering this issue in the past week, including this piece by Paul Mason, formerly of The BBC, now a Labour Party activist.


UK government exporting Public-Private Partnerships – Jenny Nelson, New Internationalist

The problems of government hiving off large infrastructure projects to huge corporations are by no means confined to the UK.

This piece from New Internationalist by Jenny Nelson highlights the threat of the global spread of Public-Private Partnerships, despite the issues highlighted by the Carillion debacle.

For instance, research has found that four separate government departments are trying to pitch private funding for health care to countries such as Zambia and Liberia. Additionally, the foreign office is trying to develop Private-Public Partnerships for healthcare in Peru.

Nelson also interviews one prominent activist about the aggressive push of PPPs that the UK government is currently engaged in.


Be the Media in Manchester: Apply for a Free Journalism Course Starting this April – Manchester Meteor

Finally… if you’re keen to be part of the independent media revolution, our partners at The Manchester Meteor and The Centre For Investigative Journalism are teaming up to provide a free course this April.

The free course, that would be worth hundreds of pounds if paid for, will teach you all “the fundamentals of quality journalism, and enable you to tell stories confidently by writing articles and producing multimedia creations.”

The course requires no prior knowledge or training in journalism, just an “interesting in telling Manchester’s untold stories and a desire to contribute towards positive change in Manchester…”

You can find the details for the course here.


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