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News in brief from the Society of Editors' conference

The incoming president of the Society of Editors said in his inaugural speech in Manchester that media freedom came at a price.
Simon Bucks, associate editor at Sky News, told delegates: “Our part of the bargain is to tell the truth. Trust and accountability should be the defining characteristics which differentiate our brands from the morass of content on the internet. It’s the key to our survival and prosperity.”

The enduring power of print was the message at the heart of the Society of Editors’ Lecture by Independent News and Media boss
Gavin O’Reilly, who spoke at the society’s annual conference in Manchester.
He said: “I see a world where quality, distinctive journalism will stand the test of time and the constant onslaught of technological innovation.
“Some will accuse me of wishful thinking- but for my part I see it as a worthy financial strategy built on a belief that established and trustworthy journalism will become even more relevant, even more vital in this digital age, where people are being bombarded daily with information-overload and where too often sadly, qualitatively, the lowest common denominator wins out.”

Which? magazine is to reward its trusting audience with plans to offer a regional network of recommended services for the first time in 50 years.
Editor Neil Fowler, who was formerly editor of the Western Mail and The Journal in Newcastle, revealed that Which? Local will enable Which? members to recommend tradesmen and other services to fellow members, as he spoke at the Society of Editor’s conference in Manchester.

Georgina Henry, assistant editor of The Guardian and editor of Comment is Free, warned delegates of the problems of trying to monitor every contribution made by the public.
She said: “It is impossible to control and monitor the internet in the same way as print because of users.
“We know our audience and we know what they expect of us.
“That’s different online, where they are coming to you through a whole range of links and not necessarily through your front page.
“We also don’t know where they are because they don’t tell us.
“We have got to accept that the relationship has changed with the audience and that will never go back.”

Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions, told delegates at the Society of Editors conference that responsibility for what was published should rest with journalists, adding that it was better for journalists to run the risk of publishing and being damned than being told what to do in the first place. He confirmed that the courts were becoming more relaxed about what could be published in advance of trials.

Mark Dodson, chief executive officer of GMG Regional Media, spoke about quality and trust in the years to come, discussing his company’s decision to to distribute free copies of the Manchester Evening News in the city centre in 2006. The move was applauded by some and condemned by others but ultimately increased readership by 20 per cent.
He said: “The road to 2020 is bound to be a hazardous one but we have got to hold our nerve. We have to balance the needs of the readers with those of shareholders.
“Quality is a core value. We have to be true to our readers, advertisers and viewers.”