15th April 2015

Is national media now more accountable than ever thanks to social media?

It’s hard to think of a time when the British media was operating under such a bright spotlight as it does today.

With the Leveson Inquiry, the phone-hacking trial and reporters being charged with criminal offences journalists must feel every move they make is being scrutinised.

But it could be argued that with the ever increasing popularity of social media the Fourth Estate is now more accountable than ever for its actions.

Earlier this month the Mail on Sunday ran a front page piece criticising food charity the Trussell Trust. Their crime? Staff had given a Mail on Sunday reporter, posing as homeless and hungry, food without checking his credentials.

The social media backlash was immense. Respected commentators with huge social media followings hit out at the Mail on Sunday and encouraged the public to donate to the Trussell Trust as a protest.

 

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As the money started to come in, a spokesman for the Trussell Trust responded: “Today we’d like to say a huge public ‘thank you’ to everyone who has donated following the Mail on Sunday’s Easter Day article criticising our work.

“We were overwhelmed when our Easter fundraising appeal ‘Help Crack UK Hunger’ received an unexpected boost following the article.

“Donations started to pour in after undercover reporters targeted our volunteer-run food-banks, with one Mail on Sunday reporter duping a Citizens Advice Bureau volunteer into giving him a voucher for a food-bank.”

The Mail on Sunday’s article then came under closer scrutiny with people pointing out that the headline was completely contradicted by the main body of the piece.

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Celebrities too are using the medium to counter or react to stories about their private lives. Last Sunday, The Sun on Sunday ran a front page article about Coronation Street actress Kym Marsh, and her new boyfriend, the ex of her ‘friend’ fellow actress Stephanie Waring who was quoted at length in the piece.

Although her spokesman gave a short comment to the paper, Kym decided to add her thoughts on Sunday morning:

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So immediately, her 430,000 followers were privy to her thoughts on the story.

The third example comes from the Daily Express. Last Tuesday the Scottish and English versions of the paper featured a story on pensions in the UK.

No surprise there, you’d like to think the views of the two newspapers were fairly similar and singing from the same hymn- sheet.

However, it would appear that there is at the very least, a political agenda at play here.

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The picture above, posted by the BBC News’ Scotland correspondent James Cook generated thousands of responses and retweets.

In the past politicians, celebrities and sports stars have had to resort to traditional media channels to rebuff, correct or merely comment about stories concerning them.

And now the general public is given far more scope to comment and react on stories.

So the inquiries, reports and even court cases will rumble on. But is it social media that holds the key to keeping the traditional media in line?

It is beginning to look more and more that that is indeed the case.

By Dave Goddard, head of media