Public trust of the media is earned, not given

A focal part of our nation’s growing discontent towards the media has been born from the surplus of information, which can feel overwhelming to many people.

With Britain in its seventh week of national lockdown, commentators note the likelihood that the measures will remain in place long after the original target of May 7th. Globally, people have been forced to adopt an isolationist existence, fighting an invisible enemy claiming thousands of lives across the world.

Given the unprecedented spread of Covid-19, which had previously been unencountered by the scientific community, clinical progress and advice has been transient. Both the Government and the media are required to adapt their publications to the evolving scientific information – leaving many Britons struggling to keep up.

A news article you read today is entirely likely to be out-of-date by tomorrow. With updated statistics released by Public Health England and the ONS every day, we are seeing scientific and governmental advice being continuously revised, sometimes contradicting what may have been advised only a week prior. Of course, the evolution of governmental advice in response to changing scientific understanding is both positive and expected, and yet there is no denying that this set of circumstances has caused mass confusion nationwide, in many cases creating more questions than it has provided answers. Arguably, this is largely due to the politicisation of the crisis by the media, with the villainisation of our Prime Minister just days after he battled with Covid-19 in intensive care and since celebrated the safe birth of his son.

With Boris Johnson’s personal popularity amongst the highest of the G7 leaders, mainstream media outlets have proven their failure to acknowledge and amplify the feelings of a majority of the British public. This, by extension, raises questions as to the objectivity of mainstream reporting, with a distinct example being the Sunday Time’s omission of the Prime Minister’s regular and expected absences from COBRA meetings to further a specific political agenda.

On the other hand, the role the media has played in the widespread distribution of health and safety advice and slogans, such as ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ cannot be discounted. Whilst there is a growing distrust of the media among the British public, as demonstrated by the YouGov poll on April 24th, it is paramount that the role alternative media has played in the Government’s handling of Covid-19 is not forgotten. With the broadcast of the Prime Minister’s national emergency declaration available for stream on Amazon Prime, as well as the promotion of Government advise across all major social media platforms – including Instagram and Tiktok, for example – the role the media has to offer on both sides of the political spectrum has to be acknowledged.

This is only further exemplified by the success of the Queen’s national address across both domestic and international media sources. The second most viewed programme on the BBC in the past decade, accumulating over 24m viewers across the United Kingdom, the media, by providing an outlet on which the Queen’s message could be shared, has proven that in times of national strife they can be trusted to play their part in unifying the nation. Both by presenting the Sovereign and emphasising the themes of her message thereafter – such as through their coverage and promotion of the actions of Captain Tom Moore, the media has displayed at times a genuine ability to reflect the mood of the nation in their broadcasts.

Whether the media can or cannot be trusted is a matter of raucous debate across the political spectrum.

As the handling of several major mainstream media outlets towards Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted, there is a case that the media cannot be trusted to deliver objective and holistic facts to the British public, due in no small part to the whims of politically-minded journalists and major shareholders who wish to promote a certain agenda or viewpoint for their own benefit. However, in spite of the spreading of misinformation or the omission of specific facts within their publications, the media has proven in times of crisis such as this to be trustworthy to use their outlets to unify our nation and our people by highlighting simple deeds and acts of kindness by the public, which ultimately draws together people from across the United Kingdom – be they Labour or Conservative, Unionist or Nationalist, Remainers or Brexiteers – in celebration of the people and actions that define our social fabric and make Britain great.

Kate McGee, Co-Chair of South West Hertfordshire Young Conservatives

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