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Telegraph editor Chris Evans: Facebook and Google have taken journalism advertising money – but technology is an opportunity

By Freddy Mayhew

Telegraph editor Chris Evans has said that fake news is “great” for the news industry.

Speaking at the Society of Editors annual conference today in Cambridge today, Evans said: “I think it’s great for our trade that there is renewed doubt about things people see out there on social media.

“I think it could serve to our advantage.”

He said the “proliferation of fake news” on social media was “increasing the value of trusted brands”.

Evans said the news industry had “suffered something of a loss of confidence” in the past ten years. “caused almost entirely by advancements in technology”.

He said: “We have spent ten years blaming the likes of Facebook and Google for taking the advertising money that pays for our journalism – and indeed they have… but if we spent ten years lamenting the loss of revenue we have also spent ten years forgetting what we are good at.”

He added: “We are recovering our confidence because we are learning to see technology not as a problem but an opportunity.”

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He said the Telegraph’s MPs’ expenses investigation of 2009 would not have been possible without advances in technology.  And he held aloft the the red, external hard drive that the leaked information was supplied on.

“Our stories about MPs’ expenses could not have happened unless the technology existed to condense all that [data]… real news was the beneficiary of advancements in technology.”

Asked if fake news was actually a threat in the UK, Evans said he could not “quantify” it.

He said: “I don’t know whether it’s overblown or not. I’m not arguing that it did have an effect on any election [outcomes]. But it’s certain that there is a public perception of fake news.”

Facing questions in a one-on-one with BBC media editor Amol Rajan, Evans was asked whether the mainstream media had “lost touch with the country”.

Acknowledging that the Telegraph has failed to predict the success of Jeremy Corbyn at this year’s general election he said the “mainstream media” nonetheless continued to make the “big stories” and “set the news agenda”.

He said: “I don’t buy the idea that somehow, somebody else is making the news.”

He said the Telegraph’s partial paywall for premium content, which has a target of reaching 10m registered users was “paying well”.

But, he said: “The most interesting thing to me as a journalist is not so much how much money it is making, it’s restoring confidence in what we do.”

Evans was asked whether the decision by the newspaper and magazine industry not to adopt  Sir Brian Leveson’s recommendations on press regulation in full was “undemocratic” given they had the support of Parliament.

He said: “I think the freedom of the press in terms of our democracy trumps all of those concerns.

“The fact that MPs voted for it is neither here nor there. We serve the people, we are an important part of democracy.”

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