An editorial chief has voiced concern over readers who “don’t actually read the facts” of regional press stories online.
Alison Gow, left, digital editor-in-chief for Trinity Mirror Regionals, hit out at what she described as a culture of “read the headline and then go straight to the comments” which she says has developed over the past two or three years
Alison told a Welsh Assembly inquiry into news journalism in Wales that what she called confirmation bias among readers has become a “big issue”, describing it as one of the “great problems” the industry faces.
She said journalists were “quite often” taking to their newspapers’ social media channels to correct readers about stories which they hadn’t actually read.
Alison and her Trinity Mirror colleague Alan Edmunds, were quizzed by the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on whether politicians understood the nature of the challenges face by regional journalists.
Alison responded: “The thing that worries me particularly is actually the way that the public mood has changed towards news, the false news and the misinformation and the kind of ‘read the headline and then go straight to the comments’ and the confirmation bias that has really started to become a big issue recently.
“It’s probably in the past two or three years where you find that people don’t actually read the facts. So, to come back to what you were saying about politics, actually, people will actively not read a story because they will have a view.
“For example, if you look at Facebook posts, you can see how the conversation becomes an echo chamber, and it’s really I think one of the great problems that we face is trying to burst filter bubbles around that and try and engage people in conversations.
“If you look at Wales Online, on Facebook, you probably see quite often that [journalists] will go in and say, basically, ‘That’s not what the story’s about. It’s this.'”
Alan, who is editorial director for Trinity Mirror Regionals, said there was a misconception that digital platforms offer “a less serious forum for news”.
Citing the example of the Wales Online website, he told the committee: “It won the website of the year in the Regional Press Awards, it was commended for its tremendous online coverage of the Aberfan anniversary, and the skilful way that the new content, some of the new interviews that had never been heard before.
“And I think the frustration is sometimes the sense that digital platforms are not suitable for providing great, serious journalism, because I think they can be.
“There are some fantastically talented journalists in our newsrooms, who are doing some amazingly clever things online, and engaging very well with their audience. And Wales has been at the forefront of that.”