News publishers and COVID-19 coverage

23 April 2020 — True Publica

News publishers and COVID-19 coverage

By TruePublica: As COVID-19 immerses Britain in crisis after crisis, the public go in search of facts not salacious celebrity stories and fake news peddled by right-wing rags. The Sun and Daily Mail lose ground as The Guardian and Financial Times reach new records.

Reading Press Gazette today provides a tiny ray of light in the darkness that the COVID-19 crisis has brought to Britain.

It reports several stories relating to news publishers and their coverage of the COVID-19 crisis. Interestingly, the general public is after factual information and not so much of the salacious celebrity tittle-tattle spewed out by the likes of the Daily Mail, Express and Sun newspapers. For instance, The Guardian overtook their tabloid-style competitors including the Mail Online in website traffic terms last month. This is a first and is very encouraging. The Guardian is Britain’s most trusted newspaper and source of news by quite a long way.

Traffic to the Financial Times website has also grown, in fact, it has rocketed off 250 per cent year-on-year over the past month as coverage of the coronavirus crisis has broken new records for the daily title. The Financial Times even extended its online traffic lead over the Daily Star!

However, the news is more mixed when it comes to other daily newspapers. More than 2,000 staff across the UK’s national and regional press have temporarily lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

One of them is The Telegraph newspaper. In measures affecting non-editorial staff, Telegraph Media Group has furloughed 90 workers until end of May, with remaining staff to work four-day week from 1 May and have salaries cut by 20 per cent, including executives. The announcement follows “material reductions” in advertising revenue.

The Sun has not fared well either. As BBC News reported, the Rupert Murdoch owned paper is having problems. His company News Group Newspapers lost £68m in 2019. Part of this was paying huge legal bills over various lawsuits it has had to defend itself from such as the hacking scandal, which cost £27 last year alone. Daily sales of the Sun fell 8% in the year to July 2019 – an almost non-stop slide for a decade. It turns out that since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, things for the tabloid seem to have got quite a lot worse. The Sun‘s executive editor Dan Wootton was even begging people to buy copies of the tabloid by calling The Sun a source of ‘trusted information’.

Given its very shady history for ‘journalism’ which has included a mass of complaints including the aforementioned hacking scandal, numerous controversial incidents including publishing far-right conspiracies, being implicated in the death of Caroline Flack and been accused, rightly, of pushing out the ‘lowest form of journalism.’ Buckingham Palace made a formal complained against The Sun and there has been public anger expressed over its outright racism and extreme views over Brexit.

This right-wing rag would be no loss to Britain. It failed a Media Bias/Fact Check with a conclusion of – “Mixed for factual reporting due to overly sensationalized headlines and numerous failed fact checks.” The Daily Mail was even worse in the ranking with an explanation of – “extreme bias, consistent promotion of propaganda/conspiracies, poor or no sourcing to credible information, a complete lack of transparency and/or is fake news” – and accuses it of publishing hoaxes and disinformation.

The Times newspaper – one of the most complained about newspapers to the regulatory body IPSO is also in trouble with staff being laid off as revenues crater.

TruePublica has seen readership increase with sustained growth arriving in November last year. January, February and March all brought new records for visitors and page reads – with April already about to overtake March – with ten days left on the clock to the month-end.

Astonishingly, the bbc.co.uk and bbc.com saw a whopping 1.3 billion site visitors last month – easily the biggest news website in the world by a very long margin.

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