Newsworks: Feisty News Brands Enhance Democracy
Newspapers remain hugely influential and embody the “complexities and contradictions” that come with democracy, Newsworks chief executive Vanessa Clifford wrote in a piece for Campaign this week.
Vanessa wrote: “It is ironic that there should be so much debate about political bias in newspapers, even as doubters question the influence of the press. 18- to 24-year-olds are more likely to cite newspapers (43 per cent) than social media (41 per cent) as a place where they find out about politics
“If news brands are irrelevant to readers, why do they still occupy so much airtime? Why bother taking them to task over their self- declared biases if they hold no weight anyway? The fact is that newspapers come into their own at times like this.
“Democracy means having an outspoken, challenging and uncensored press that holds politicians to account. You’re never going to agree with everything that is written, but that’s the point. Whether you’re a paid-up Guardian member or a Mail devotee, there should be one thing you can agree on (several actually, but more on that later) – newspapers are indispensable at election time.
“The figures back up this role. Newsworks research, conducted in conjunction with Tapestry and focused on 1,000 adults, found that 55% of people learn about politics from newspapers (19 per cent cited social media). Even 18- to 24-year-olds are more likely to cite newspapers (43 per cent) than social media (41 per cent) as a place where they find out about politics.
“Our research shows that people gravitate towards titles that hold similar values to them and rely on them to help navigate a wide range of topics. In fact, newspapers emerged as the strongest indicator of how people defined themselves, over age and social class.
“Yet there is a difference between drawing on newspapers to help build an understanding of an issue and unquestioningly accepting everything that is written. Reading the opinions of others helps galvanise what we do and don’t agree with. It’s a relationship built on discourse rather than dictation.”
“In these politically charged times, it can be tempting to take a linear view both of people and the press – in vs out, left vs right, right vs wrong – but this negates the complexities and contradictions that come with democracy. This is what our press embodies. Without it, we lose the texture and authenticity of politics.”