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Media more blessing than curse says Bishop

The media is more often a blessing than a curse in our society according to the Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James, the Church of England’s new lead spokesman on media issues. Keith Morris reports.
BishopGrahamNCRC450Addressing a dinner audience at the Norwich Christian Resources Centre on November 9, Bishop Graham demonstrated his detailed understanding of the work of particularly the local media, partly through his role on the House of Lords Communications Select Committee.
 
“The media landscape is changing incredibly fast with the proliferation of digital media and this presents a very real threat to many of its elements, particularly national and local newspapers,” said Bishop Graham.
 
In Norfolk we are fortunate because we have the Eastern Daily Press, which has the distinction of being the only local newspaper in the country to outsell any national paper within its circulation area, he explained, alongside a very strong BBC local radio station, Radio Norfolk he explained.
 
Nationally, there has been a dramatic decline in the sales of local and national newspapers. The reason is the internet. Newspaper reading is the habit of the middle-aged - young people get their news online and don’t expect to pay for it.
 
The Guardian, The Times and The Independent all make losses and survive only through the support of a charitable trust, an Australian tycoon and a Russian oligarch, in that order. The Guardian now has 250,000 print readers and 3 million online readers.
 
BishopGrahamNCRC400Advertising revenues for newspapers have dropped hugely because much of it has gone online, explained Bishop Graham. Today there are 40% less journalists working on local newspapers than there were five years ago and in a number of areas, local papers are on the brink of extinction. In Port Talbot in Wales for example, there is no local media holding people and organisations to account and it changes the shape of society because of it.
 
Ad revenues have gone online with people such as local councils and the NHS setting up their own online jobs sites.
 
“There are now more people employed in the PR industry in this county than there are journalists,” said Bishop Graham. “The number of local journalists covering local courts or council meeting had dropped dramatically and it affects our democracy.
 
“In the midst of the print media there is a real revolution going on and my anxiety is that the day after tomorrow there may not be much of a local print media left.”
 
The Bishop’s role on the House of Lords Communications Select Committee, currently looking into the role of investigative journalism, has informed his view that it is a vital part of our democracy - holding those in power to account - which must not be lost. Major scandals local and international are uncovered by dogged journalists.
 
What is the curse? Well, the trivialisation of life and infotainment presented for those with a very short attention span. Also a concentration on celebrities. Also the media sometimes want a certain type of story and want to fit the facts around it. They don’t always get the story right, he said. But overall, we get the media we deserve.
 
“With the media as it exists today, there are elements we sometimes curse but it is more often a blessing and without it we would be a diminished society,” concluded the Bishop.
 
“Overall we should give thanks for the media because a free society is big enough to cope with its irresponsible elements and we should give thanks that we live in a society in which people can be irresponsible because that is itself a sign of the freedoms we enjoy.”

 


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