Jenni Sargent: “We need to address fake news”

The editor of First Draft News has issued a plea to journalists and the wider media to become more aware of the risk posed by ‘fake’ news.

Jenni Sargent, speaking at the Society of Editors conference 2016, believes modern-day journalism has made it extremely easy for publications to become slack when it comes to the verification process.

With the internet now dominating journalism at most levels, First Draft News aims to provide verification advice from a non-profit point-of-view.

And Sargent feels the pressure of getting to the story first sometimes leads to inconsistencies.

She said: “At First Draft, we try to provide some guidance to newsrooms to get through this tricky landscape of the internet.

“The reality of most newsrooms is that this urgency to report something that looks convincing is that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Sargent’s presentation also focused on the importance of sifting carefully through manipulated and potentially doctored user-generated content.

The Emhub director also feels it’s important to equip journalists with the tools and knowledge needed to differ between potentially fake and genuine sources.

She said: “Everyone is a source – it has potential to be fake, manipulated, and could be shared by social media users who have little knowledge of the topic.

“Understanding who your sources are, where your videos have come from, is so important. You need to question every piece of content.”

By Hayden Atkins

Google DNI funds investigative journalism says Bureau chief

Funding by Google’s DNI Innovation Fund is contributing to producing investigative journalism the Society of Editors conference has been told.

Speaking as part of a panel session focusing on Google’s Digital News Initiative which provides funding for journalism projects, Rachel Oldroyd, the editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, praised the scheme.

The Bureau, active since 2010, has used the Fund to expand its investigative journalism unit and it has directly funded a Local Data Lab which it hopes to open to other media organisations.

Rachel Oldroyd, the Managing Editor, explained to the conference that the Bureau would use the fund to expand their investigative data journalism team. She added that she was hiring journalists to specialise in “collecting, analysing and cleaning up data” which allowed them to access a “goldmine of stories” wrapped up in data.

As the Bureau doesn’t publish their work themselves, the stories derived from their data journalism team, and therefore Google’s funding, will benefit news outlets across the UK, she said.

May 2017 target for BBC Local Journalism Partnership

A scheme by which the BBC is to fund 150 ‘local democracy’ reporters could be up and running by May 2017 it has been announced.

Speaking at the Society of Editors conference in Carlisle, Matthew Barraclough, Editor of the BBC Local Journalism Working Group said that he was that the provisions contained in the BBC White Paper could be trialled in time for the May 2017 Council elections.

The Local Journalism Working Group was set up in 2014 by James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News, to look at ways in which the BBC could work with local and regional media organisations for mutual benefit.

The proposals, published in the White Paper, would see the BBC fund 150 reporters that would be based in regional newsrooms and cover councils and local democracy. The aim of the scheme is to fill what is considered to be a ‘democratic deficit’ in the regions with a lack of resources impacting on the coverage of local authorities.

Barraclough, who is leading the project from the BBC side, said that he hoped the plans will benefit audiences with a growth of content.

He said: “We’re signing up to a joint content audit – an undertaking to find out where the journalism in the BBC is going.

“We’re trying to create a benchmark to see just where the journalism crosses over and what else we can offer.

“The aspiration is that the BBC will see outcomes as soon as possible and even possibly launch some reporters for the Council Elections in May 2017.”

Google funds digital projects across Europe

Google is on the lookout for worthy digital innovation projects that it can support with a special development grant.

A fund of €150m, the Digital News Initiative (DNI) has been set up to support projects across Europe.

Speaking at the annual Society of Editors’ conference, Sarah Hartley, DNI Applicants Associate Manager, explained it is open to applications from all not-for-profit organisations. “We are looking for things that are going to have impact across the whole system”, she said, adding the idea of the fund is to “inspire people to look at new business models and experiment in order to work out the future for journalism.”

By way of example, the conference session highlighted several projects supported by the fund so far. One is a news app called Parsecs that allows readers to experience the same story from different perspectives.

Perspecs developer Darren Sher explained future development plans for the app include a ‘vote’ button allowing readers to side with one perspective. He added development of the app was only made possible thanks to DNI funding.

Google will announce the 2016 funded projects in November.

Fiona Kinloch from the University of Central Lancashire

New Beginnings: How the media can help rebuild a community after an emergency

The vital role played by the media in the aftermath of the 2015 Cumbrian floods was the main focus of the New Beginnings session at the Society of Editors’ annual conference.

David Helliwell, Group Editorial Director of the CN Group, explained how important it was for his team to get to the heart of the crisis, despite many of their own homes having been flooded. “We had to be a conduit of accurate information for those who really really needed it,” he said.

He believes his main responsibility was to keep the floods on the government’s agenda, as attention shifted from the immediate impact on to clearing up and discussion of flood prevention measures. “As well as championing Cumbria’s role with government we were also chief cheerleader,” he added.

Thanks to that cheerleading, the Twitter hashtag #spiritofcumbria quickly went viral, boosting morale and helping to support those directly affected as they tried to rebuild their lives.

Tony Thompson, Chair of the Emergency Planning Society, spoke of the importance of careful planning and preparation for handling disasters.

He advocated the need to ‘Warn and Inform’ members of the public so that they know what to do in an emergency situation.

He also called for the re-establishment of emergency planning working groups to pool resources, experience and knowledge from right across the community, including input from the emergency services and the media.

Sean Robinson, Head of News at United Utilities also expressed the importance of the media during an emergency.

He said: “A part of our job as a ‘category two’ responder under the Civil Contingency Act is that we need to warn and inform the public. One of the quickest and fastest ways to do that is through the local media.”

“We are keen to work with news editors to make sure we can get our messages out – our customers are their readers.”
By Laura Creighton & Emmi Bowles UCLan

The media and the police

The ‘Media and Police’ conference session looked at the role of armed response units, and the thorny question of College of Policing guidelines.

Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, the national lead on Armed Policing, outlined some of the challenges facing modern response teams.

He explained their work, what they were armed with, and how various high profile cases – such as the Hungerford shooting and the Dunblane massacre – continue to shape and refine their approach to a range of extremely difficult situations.

He also touched on the controversial question of ‘shoot to kill’, adding he believes further debate is still needed on the subject because the public does not fully understand the issues.

They hinge on the purpose of firing at suspect – the police intention is to stop the offender in the most effective way. Generally this means aiming for what DCC Chesterman euphemistically described as ‘the central body mass’.

But when officers are confronted with, say, a potential suicide bomber, they are trained to aim at the brain stem. Then, the result is almost certain to be fatal.

DCC Chesterman explained firearms officers are all volunteers. He believes more media support towards them would be helpful: “Their biggest fear is the post incident investigation – that they won’t be treated fairly and will lose their livelihood,” he said.

Alex Marshall, Chief Executive at the College of Policing (COP) also spoke, running through the background to its latest set of media guidelines.

He stressed they were intended to ‘support people at the front end of policing’, letting journalists know what to expect, and guiding officers in how to behave in various situations.

He said: “The principle is to be open and have good relationships with the media, who are one version of holding the police to account.”

“But I think the media have to be careful not to over-rely on the police for information or to confirm information.”

Consultation continues, and a revised draft of media guidelines is expected early in 2017.

By Laura Creighton & Emmi Bowles UCLan

Jeremy Clifford: “We want to work with Trinity Mirror collaboratively”

The Editor-in-Chief of Johnston Press has revealed that the publisher is working with fellow regional publisher Trinity Mirror to explore the benefit of collaborative projects.

Speaking at the Society of Editors conference in Carlisle, Clifford told media figures that the company was looking to break the trend between media companies and their rivals, suggesting that working together was now the way forward for the industry.

He said: “Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press are talking about sharing some of their resources when it comes to coming back from football games.

“We both go to the same events and we might both spend on freelance photography and duplicate efforts.”

“We shouldn’t see ourselves as competitors and we should in-fact be working together,” he added.

Speaking as part of a panel session looking at the progress of the BBC Local Journalism Working Group, Clifford, a former editor of the Yorkshire Press said that pooling resources was a means by which local and regional newspapers could produce public interest journalism in a challenging climate.

He said: “Working collaboratively, is the key to success in the industry. We know we’re challenged but what we don’t tend to do well enough is work together,” he added.

SoE conference gives local businesses the opportunity to shine

For most, the Society of Editors conference is the chance for some of the biggest names in journalism to meet, greet and interact.

This year’s event, based at the Halston Hotel in Carlisle, has attracted some key names from the media world, including the chairman of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the editor of the BBC Journalism Working Group and the Head of the College of Policing.

While the conference provides a fantastic opportunity for those in the media world to come together, it’s also a fantastic opportunity for local businesses to showcase some of their finest products.

The Lakes Distillery are no exception and they were at the two-day event to show-off their upmarket brands of vodka, gin and whiskey, all manufactured locally.

And Rachel Fenwick, The Distillery’s Business development executive, told us just how vital the local community are to the company.

“The thing that is really special about companies in Cumbria is that they stick together.

“There’s a really big business community here and we work with a lot of people from all over the region and they’re so proud to have something that is Cumbrian born and bred,” she said.

Fenwick also discussed how relationships between editors and the company have improved after the two-day event.

“For the lakes distillery, we work a lot with editors and there are plenty that want to come down and review the distillery itself after speaking to us.

“For editors, it’s a really good opportunity for them to come down to the site, to see what we’re about and also spread the good word about the region in general,” Fenwick added.

North urged to raise its voice

London-based journalists lack understanding of the north of England, according to a former Fleet Street editor who grew up in Barrow.

Speaking at the annual Society of Editors Conference in Carlisle, executive director of CTF Partners, Chris Blackhurst, Mr Blackhurst dismissed what he sees as the southern belief that ‘nothing ever happens’ in the North.

“The North gave the world the first railway and split the atom”, he said.

The former editor of The Independent believes the North suffers from a lack of self-belief, something he calls ‘The Northern Psyche’. He added that in his view the broader approach of modern titles is a mistake: “Newspapers have missed a trick by allowing themselves to become deregionalised.”

Fiona Kinloch from University of Central Lancashire


Former Independent editor Chris Blackhurst has called for better informed investment in the north of England.

Speaking at the annual Society of Editors conference in Carlisle, Barrow-born Chris criticised what he sees as misguided post-industrial investment in the area.

Now Executive Director of high profile consultancy firm CTF Partners, he said the north was suffering from a lack of self-belief and self-awareness that had seriously affected its investment, and opportunities are being missed.

He claimed previous investors had allowed themselves to be “seduced by glossy media in the south”.

He said Barrow, despite having built a reputation for its specialist and highly complex work building nuclear submarines, had made the same mistake as many other industrial towns: “They created an enterprise park with grass embankments…low-slung buildings, and lots of flag poles but new businesses did not set up there. It was snapped up by car dealers.

“Where are the start-ups, the centres of excellence?

“No new jobs came out of it at all.”

He was sceptical about the idea of the Northern Powerhouse, identifying it as only evident in a small area of the north of England.

Blackhurst identified another factor contributing to the north’s lack of industrial progression, the ‘northern psyche’.

He said: “It’s not just a problem of lack of infrastructure and investment. It’s a problem of a lack of self-belief.”

He added there were “no ambitious role models, no business models”.

Nevertheless, he urged people not to underestimate the region, and highlighted the many scientific and engineering accomplishments achieved in the north: “The north gave the world the first railway, split the atom … but this is not reflected in the coverage of it in the south.”

Stephanie Gabbatt