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Journalists are told to think before they act

Journalists are being told to think before they act in a bid to rebuild the public’s trust in the media.

Neil Benson, editorial director of Trinity Mirror Regional newspapers, said that before publishing a story journalists should put themselves in the position of the average reader or viewer.

His comments came during his inaugural address as the new president of the Society of Editors, at the end of the Society’s annual conference.

He said: “Any journalist knows that, nowadays, the average man or woman in the street is disparaging of our methods, mistrustful of our motives, and suspicious about our level of accuracy.

“We all know that perception is grossly unfair, and that it undervalues the contribution of thousands of journalists throughout all branches of the media who work diligently and honestly, day in and day out. Nevertheless, it is a perception that is widely-held.

“I would suggest that, if we are to rebuild trust and credibility, we need to think twice about the impact of our actions, our attitude and the way we report on ordinary people, and in particular the subjects of our stories.

“Society has moved on. Ordinary people expect us to show a greater degree of courtesy and sensitivity, both in the way we deal with them and in the way we present our content.”

He said that rather than the usual knee-jerk reaction to a story, journalists should put themselves in the position of the average reader or viewer and ask themselves how they would feel in their shoes.

He added: “Let me stress, I am not advocating that we should become a bunch of cuddly poodles. Our role as watchdog is more important now than ever, as organisations – in both the public and private sector – become increasingly skilled in the art of spin.

“What I am suggesting is that we would be well advised to develop our sense of perspective and to heighten our understanding of the people who consume our media.

“If we did so, we might go a long way towards repairing our bruised credibility and perhaps we might even attract more viewers, listeners and readers.”

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