Following the #TrustedNewsDay hashtag on Twitter today provided a fascinating insight into the working lives of the thousands of journalists on the frontline of news in the regional press.
Through various videos, features and photos it offers a peak into newsrooms around the country as part of the News Media Association’s campaign against fake news.
They are peopled by experienced, serious, well trained and committed journalists who care deeply about getting things right and doing the best for their communities. Many have decades of experience and unparalleled local knowledge.
As one would expect, this marketing campaign for the importance of professional local newspaper journalism made extensive use of social media and Facebook in particular.
The irony is that Facebook is the source of the fake news scourge that the campaign is railing against.
Whether the content is real, or fake, Facebook still wins, raking in £1bn a year in advertising from the UK alone last year (money which it has taken out of the local and national newspaper advertising market).
It makes its money by offering access to the individual. The content which appears alongside the advert is immaterial to Facebook.
And the same problem is true on the wider internet. It is the individuals that advertisers are targeting and they don’t appear too bothered about the context which the messages appear in.
Local newspapers in particular offer trusted information, expensively sourced which is admirably impartial, in particular at election time – in stark contrast to the national press on this latter point.
But the online advertising system often does not reward clicks against its content any more highly than it would against misleading dross.
Last year local newspaper websites increased their website traffic by around 40 per cent. But in a rising market, the amount spent on advertising with them actually fell by 3.4 per cent to £194m.
Meanwhile the two biggest news publishers in the UK, Google and Facebook, who don’t employ a single journalist, made about £5bn in advertising.
Search for anything on Google, or spend five minutes browsing your Facebook feed, and it is quickly apparent that these two media companies rely hugely on the news industry for the content that makes their products compelling. Yet they give almost nothing back.
To protect trusted, verified, professional local journalism we need to find a way to ensure it is better rewarded online.
Publishers need to get better at selling it, advertisers need to start valuing it and Google and Facebook need to start providing a fairer deal for news publishers.