A new swathe of left-wing upstart titles have capitalised on distrust of "the MSM". But it's readers, not journalists, who can really make the differenceby Padraig Reidy / August 9, 2017 / Leave a comment
Earlier this year, I was a judge for the revived Private Eye Paul Foot Awards for campaigning journalism. It was an encouraging experience in an age when we are told that newspapers are in terminal decline: we received over 70 entries from national and local newspapers, the vast majority of which were genuinely excellent works of public interest journalism. The winner was a campaign on homelessness in east London by the extraordinary investigative reporter named Emma Youle.
It’s always struck me as a little odd that Private Eye, a publication which opens each fortnight with the “Street of Shame” pages documenting the crimes and misdemeanours of the nation’s press, should also run a prize celebrating the achievements of journalism. But that tension points to the complicated nature of the current mood of mistrust in the press.
Since the phone hacking scandal of 2011, the idea that the “mainstream media” is not to be trusted—or is, even, set against the interests of the public—has gained ground. The Scottish referendum campaign saw some activists obsessing over the apparently biased coverage offered by the BBC’s Nick Robinson. South of the border, as Jeremy Corbyn rose to the leadership of the Labour party, a growing narrative emerged: the press—all of the press, not just the right-wing press—was engaged in concerted attempts to undermine his left-wing agenda.
A new wave
This latter narrative was driven by new left-wing outlets such as the Canary, Skwawkbox and Evolve Politics. One thing should be stated clearly about these outlets: they have a commercial interest in undermining faith in established media. They see themselves as market disrupters, in direct competition with other outlets. A glance at the Canary’s front page on any given day will show it dominated by criticisms of other outlets: special venom is reserved for the BBC and the Guardian, from whom the Canary and other outlets hope to win leftist readers.
But while traditional journalists may baulk at the hyperbolic headlines and frequent recklessness of the new outlets, they have undoubtedly struck a chord among readers. Analysis by Buzzfeed showed that articles from the leftish upstart sites are shared across social media in enviable numbers.
Why? And why, in particular, is this UK upstart media dominated by the left? It’s true that the…