Culture Secretary Confirms Print Journalists Classed As Key Workers

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has confirmed that print journalists and necessary ancillary staff are included as “key workers” in the Government’s list of people who are critical to the coronavirus response.

In a tweet this afternoon, the Culture Secretary said: “Public service news across TV, radio and print has never been more important than it is right now. I can confirm that broadcasters, journalists and the necessary ancillary staff are included as key workers.”

The News Media Assocation has stressed to Government the importance of journalists and key support staff being able to move freely in the event of restrictions being introduced.  

News media titles across the UK have reacted to the coronavirus pandemic by launching local community hub groups as support initiatives for the public during periods of self-isolation and social distancing as well as dedicated live blogs and support sections, covering the latest news, statistics and health advice.

The Shropshire Star have created a dedicated community support page on their website which is regularly updated with information on local delivery services for the elderly and vulnerable, food shares and donations, nearby community groups and messages from local councillors.

The Yorkshire Post have set up a local Facebook group for people to act as an online community hub, helping the public to connect with their community and acting as a base for volunteers who are visiting shops for the more vulnerable.

Jonathan Pritchard, at The Yorkshire Post, said: “In these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever that we at The Yorkshire Post continues to provide you with the same high-quality, informative journalism we have done for the last 266 years.

“As part of our continued service, it’s vital that we provide you with the right information when you need it so we can all stay safe, support each other and ride out this pandemic which has brought fear and panic to our great county.”

The Guardian have published a piece on the challenges of covering the coronavirus and the heightened demand for trusted news and information during the pandemic. Their “continually updated explainer” ‘Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should I see a doctor?’ is now the Guardian’s most read piece ever.

Owen Gibson, Guardian’s deputy editor, commented “Everyone feels the responsibility to our readers keenly, and it’s the depth and quality of our coverage that’s as important as the speed of breaking news.”

They are also running fact check pieces on dispelling inaccurate, yet widespread, disinformation on the virus as well as a list of cancellation notices for major sporting events to help keep the public informed.

The Guardian have also launched a worldwide map and timeline of Coronavirus cases, showing recovery and mortality rates, to show how the pandemic is spreading across the world.

Reach’s hyperlocal platform In Your Area have set up a widget which displays coronavirus cases and deaths in user feeds, using data from Public Health England. Users can input their postcodes to see how many confirmed cases there are in nearby areas.

Data for Wales and Scotland has been entered by Reach editorial teams at the Wales Online for Public Health Wales and by the Daily Record for Health Protection Scotland. Reach have made the widget available for all regional and local news sites to use, regardless of publisher. 

In Your Area editor-in-chief Ed Walker said: “This is not the time for parochial differences. We need regional media to have the very latest news and information.” They are also recruiting an “army” of coronavirus correspondents to provide weekly reports on the pandemic.

The Telegraph have launched an online map which plots all official cases of coronavirus confirmed in the UK (sourced from Public Heath England), along with a live tracker for known cases, as well as articles on their homepage covering symptoms and what to do during a lockdown.

They have also launched a new section for readers on their website. ‘You Are Not Alone’ features a range of stories to highlight community spirit and helpful advice and tips to help bridge the social gap during periods of self-isolation and social distancing.

Newsquest Cumbria have since announced they will be offering free advertising to independent and family owned businesses in Cumbria to help relieve pressure during the coronavirus outbreak. It will take effect next week across print and online platforms.

Madeline Palacz, at the Independent, has stressed the importance of the media’s role during the pandemic. She said: “The media’s role in this crisis must be to report what is happening honestly and transparently, to scrutinise the decisions of those in power, and hold them to account where necessary. This is the proper role of a free press in the midst of a global crisis.”

The Times have released a new podcast on helping with anxiety during self-isolation. 

The Barnsley Chronicle have also made digital copies of their paper available online in order to reach those in isolation who are not able to obtain a physical copy, commenting that “for some people it’s their only link to the local community.”

The Farnham Herald have also launched a ‘Helping Hand’ campaign, hoping to ensure that those in self-isolation still feel connected to their community. They will be supporting community groups, offering support to those in quarantine and looking to deliver copies of the Herald direct to doorsteps, so that their readers remain well informed. They also are including coupons in their print editions so that readers can offer support by posting them through vulnerable neighbour’s doors.