An award-winning regional political editor has hit out at a national columnist over his criticism of the newspaper industry, telling him “you are not a journalist”.
Jen Williams, politics and investigations editor at the Manchester Evening News, hit out at Guardian writer Owen Jones after he appeared on BBC Newsnight last night to discuss the journalism industry following Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on proposed media reform and public interest journalism yesterday.
Owen asserted on the programme that “most of the press in this country is run by a very small group of media moguls” and described journalism as “the most social exclusive profession, other than medicine”.
However, his appearance prompted Jen, pictured, to take to Twitter and tell him that she was “not run by a f***ing media mogul”.
Posting on the social media site, Jen added: “Feel free to argue with me, Owen Jones, about where my public interest journalism comes from, which mogul is telling me and my colleagues across the country what to do and how to do it and how my relative poshness is a factor.
“Because actually here’s the thing: you earn your living writing polemic, which is fine, that’s a thing. But I earn my living doing public interest journalism. I know more about it. And if I sound angry it’s because I am. I’m absolutely f***ing sick of this.”
In response, Owen wrote: “I don’t know why you take this so personally? It is objectively true that the media is extremely socially exclusive. It’s also true most of the press is run by moguls, and most back the Tory Party. Why treat someone stating these self-evident facts as a personal attack on you?”
Jen replied: “Well, there’s a number of things here. The debate was, as far as I understand it, initially about public interest journalism. If you want to make it about class, OK. I agree that – like many white collar professions – there’s a predominance of middle class people, including me.
“However, if the debate is about journalism as a trade, then I reserve the right to take it personally to be honest. I trained, I did all the things you’re meant to do in order to be a proper journalist, but increasingly I’m watching you slate what I do.”
In his speech yesterday, Mr Corbyn praised the work of the MEN and singled out Jen’s “powerful investigation” into the deaths of homeless people in Manchester.
Jen, , who won Specialist Writer/Impact Journalist of the Year at this year’s Regional Press Awards, went on to question what qualified Owen to talk about journalism, quizzing him on whether he had ever taken NCTJ qualifications.
He replied: “Are you saying that unless I do an NCTJ qualification then I shouldn’t be on television – as someone who has worked in the media for seven years – to state official statistics about how the privileged dominate the media, or that the press is run by right-wing moguls? Why?”
Jen responded: “No, I’m saying that you’re not a journalist. And that when I see you passing comment on the TV about me, a journalist, and my profession (journalism) it p***es me off.
She added: “Most papers back the Tories. They also did when I was growing up – which doesn’t legitimise it, but it isn’t a new thing. What I’m not OK with is you popping up here there and everywhere criticising my entire industry. Why? How are you even qualified to do that?
“I will absolutely take this personally and I’ll continue to do so and if I’m annoying you then I’m sorry, but it’s only the same as you do to loads of people all of the time.”
Owen later went on to state that his appearance was “not an attack on any individual journalists”, adding: “I’ve been told that I can’t criticise the media because I’m not a journalist. Leaving aside the fact that opinion writing is a subset of journalism – which is distinct from news reporting – everyone has the right to critique the media. It’s a pillar of democracy, after all.”