Jon Snow: “To keep new viewers, we need to speak truth to power”

Traditional news media is playing a vital role in the Covid-19 pandemic. And the veteran Channel 4 news anchor says it is a watershed moment for the future of the industry

People have flocked to traditional news outlets in their droves throughout the Covid-19 pandemic so, in this week’s magazine, we asked veteran anchor Jon Snow for his thoughts on the future of journalism as part of our After the Virus series.

His Channel 4 news programme kicked off the crisis by reeling in 78 per cent more viewers for their March 14 Saturday news bulletin when compared to the same 7pm slot a year earlier with an average viewership of 1.3 million people.

And Snow, who is a long-time supporter of the New Horizons youth homelessness centre in London, told us that trend has continued throughout the lockdown, both online and on the live television programme.

It has even thrown up new challenges for the 72-year-old. He was forced to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from reporting on the Iranian election in February before lockdown measures were introduced to the UK. He has since been presenting the nightly news show from home, even enlisting members of his family on tech support.

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But, in a piece put together exclusively for The Big Issue, he explains that tradition journalism needs to earn the trust of new viewers and readers by “speaking truth to power” in order to keep them engaged and avoid a return to times before the crisis when trust had plummeted.

“If you go back to the Second World War or even the Boer War, journalism at times of crisis is of paramount importance,” he says. “But I can’t say that all journalism, as it exists today, quite rises to that definition. Luckily, there are enough of us trying with every sinew to tell the truth, to report the truth and to interrogate everything we’re told. Just like The Big Issue.

“So this moment will be a milestone. More than anything, what I’ve learned in this crisis is how much people depend on good journalism – and what an enormous responsibility that imposes upon us all.

“We have to earn the viewer’s trust and nurture it. We can never take it for granted. If journalists and news organisations want to keep these new and larger audiences engaged in news and current affairs after the crisis, we need to speak truth to power.”

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