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Editor hits back at readers’ ‘snarling’ criticisms of coronavirus coverage

john-wilsonAn editor has hit back at what he termed “snarling disapproval” of his journalists’ coronavirus coverage, after readers accused them of sensationalising the crisis.

Hereford Times editor John Wilson has defended his newsroom against accusations of “scaremongering” following the outbreak.

In an editorial responding to critics of the Times, John explained that publishing a stream of live updates on the developing situation was the “most efficient way” of covering it.

He went on to say he was “deeply disheartened” to see Times journalists being “accused of sensationalism and worse”.

John, pictured, wrote: “It is understandable that in facing a welter of stories about coronavirus the reaction of some people is to accuse newspapers of scaremongering. They feel, perhaps, that things might be better if we played things down, or perhaps even ignored the story.

“This is dangerous thinking. Our job as journalists is to give people as much information about the world around them as possible so they can make informed decisions.

“Frequently, on stories such as coronavirus – as well as topics such as extreme weather or large events attended by many people – we publish a stream of live updates.

“They are the most efficient way of covering a constantly developing news story. They are not intended to sensationalise information, but to get continually changing details to our readers in the fastest and most accurate way possible.”

John went on to say information being published by medical experts was not “intended to scare people, but is the reality of what the UK is facing and the seriousness with which the government is treating it”.

He added: “An unprecedented situation such as this is bound to cause alarm. We understand that. But local updates on an escalating global situation is responsible journalism.

“As an editor, I find it deeply disheartened to see my journalists being accused of sensationalism and worse. They are committed, hard-working people trying to ensure that our community is kept informed in a responsible way using verified sources.

“I know that not everyone will find the stories we publish interesting, but the reality is that there is a great demand for information about coronavirus, and we are responding to it.

“Our message to our more impolite detractors is brief. We have a job to do, and we will continue to do for the good of all, regardless of your snarling disapproval.”

Posting a link to John’s editorial on Twitter, Times reporter Charlotte Moreau said: “The sheer level of abuse leveled at journalists for not only doing our job, but truly trying to help our communities stay informed is shocking.

“I am a Herefordian, I am a parent, I am in the same boat as everyone else.”

6 comments

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  • March 18, 2020 at 2:40 pm
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    I think it’s a wider issue. Modern “editors” are under huge pressure to deliver clicks. It must be a massive temptation to tickle up stories to attract more attention to websites. If people think they go overboard they are bound to get some flack. In the modern media world they just have to live with the monster they helped create.

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  • March 18, 2020 at 3:05 pm
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    Just as football mangers should never criticise their, fans, editors should desist from slagging off their readers, whether they are print (ie their bread and butter) or on-line (all too often click-and-gutter).

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  • March 18, 2020 at 3:44 pm
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    ‘ click and gutter’ wonderful!
    the perfect description for pure click bait posts – I doff my hat to you sir Northender

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  • March 18, 2020 at 4:36 pm
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    You lot are being unfair. I am one of the HT’s readership, following John’s live updates regularly. They are not clickbait and they are not sensationalist; considering that it’s always his byline on them, I doubt if he has the time to do anything but post the plainest news.
    The usual fare is which schools have shut, which cafes have shut, who’s the latest to set up a free delivery service or neighbourhood help service , the local theatres and a rolling update of the government’s latest news – all the stuff you’d want to know – plus a regular roundup of how to stay safe. How on EARTH anyone can call that sensationalist beats me.
    There is a cohort of regular grumblers who object to “politicizing” the story – AKA merely mentioning Boris et al – and John has form for not being a fan of one of the local MPs, but it seems to me he’s doing a straight-up job of informing his readers.
    He strikes me as a proper professional trying to do a proper job in the face of dismal resources and support from his bosses. They might prefer the clickbait.

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  • March 18, 2020 at 5:13 pm
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    I must admit I went on the Hereford Times’s website to see if it was the usual click bait nonsense that has become a the norm on most websites.

    It wasn’t, it was pretty straight forward up-and-down journalism.

    As commentators, I think we would all do well by checking the facts before rushing to assumption. May I suggest, that if anyone wants to comment on a particular website they include examples of the type of thing they are objecting too… real click bait headlines or badly written drivel.

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  • March 18, 2020 at 8:10 pm
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    Dear commenters, The purpose of this story was to highlight an editor’s defence of his journalists against unfair criticism from readers. It seems somewhat perverse therefore that some of you have seen it as an opportunity to make similar criticisms, especially at a time when we as an industry should be pulling together. I have deleted two comments which in my view unfairly singled out another website for criticism at a time when they, like all local news organisations, are simply trying to keep the public informed. We don’t pre-moderate comments, but I will continue to post-moderate any which unfairly decry peoples’ efforts in what for many newsrooms has been probably the most trying week in living memory.

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