My View: Don't shoot the messenger

Glossop Chronicle and Tameside Reporter journalist Lauren Entwistle has her own column in the paper giving her opinion on all kinds of subjects. This week, she discusses the role of journalists during the current coronavirus crisis.

It takes a lot to rile me up. I like to think I’m fairly cool-headed (at least openly) when it comes to my job - usually taking myself to the kitchen to take my anger out on a packet of jaffa cakes.

Working from home has provided a new way of working, of course, but the most notable change is that I’ve been trawling social media more and more in a bid to source stories. 

And with lockdown spanning two months so far, plenty of people have been posting what they have been up to and the things that matter to them in a time of crisis.

But what I also noticed was a viral open letter to journalists and reporters working during the COVID-19 crisis, asking them to feel the ‘mood of the nation’ and to stop writing about all the ‘bad news.’ 

Journalists were accused of gleefully tripping politicians up and doling out the bleakest of statistics to create panic. Across my local community pages, it had raked up hundreds of likes, shares and comments.

For the first time since working from home, I took myself to the kitchen and demolished a whole packet of chocolate digestives. It felt good at the time and terrible afterwards.

But it got me thinking. And angry, which is sometimes good because it gives you a kick up the backside and makes you realise that you deeply care about something. And I care about journalism.

It is far from perfect. In fact, recent years have shown that the industry has further suffered from classism, racism, corruption and greed on a huge scale – a far cry from the values a very green-me was taught during my studies and on the job.

But at its very idealistic core, journalism is about upholding the qualities of the Fourth Estate. 

It’s about holding power to account and delivering the facts and information that the public should be privy to. 

Your politicians are more than capable of answering important questions they should have answers to – and if not, it’s about pressing for that answer.

Unfortunately, I feel some aspects of the industry have been watered down into chunks of clickbait and empty fluff.

And that’s the issue. We aren’t necessarily here to entertain. There are some joyous stories that come up that I can’t wait to publish because it does break up the gloom – especially during such a crisis – but to constantly focus on false positives would be a dis-service to you as readers and to us as reporters.

We are, ultimately, on your side. But we’re also people trying to work with dark news in dark times. Don’t shoot the messenger.

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