As Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4 made plain in a devastating MacTaggart Lecture this summer, party leaders have largely abandoned doing actual interviews. Jeremy Corbyn, for one, makes no secret of his dislike of the ‘mainstream’ media – not without good reason.
But displaying such obvious disdain for reporters who ask questions also fuels the disgusting and rabid online trolling of journalists, particularly women, we’ve seen over the last few years.
And it speaks to a growing, sinister disregard across the political spectrum for the basic tenets of a free press.
Yes, this election campaign has laid bare appalling structural weaknesses and ‘capture’ across the UK media. The Sun’s political editor published far-right conspiracy theories this weekend. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg and ITV’s Robert Peston tweeted Tory-manufactured lies. Peter Oborne gave us a chilling diagnosis of Fleet Street’s subservience to Downing Street’s fake news machine.
But there’s also been some really dogged, excellent reporting done by journalists up and down the country – both in ‘big media’ and by a growing number of independent, public-interest outfits.
I’m incredibly proud of the work this small openDemocracy team has produced during this election campaign. We’ve exposed attempted foreign interference in the election. We’ve unveiled the elite donors buying access to government; the yawning gender gap in our politics; and how voters have been targeted with misinformation up and down the country.
This year we’ve also won court cases to force transparency from the government – and seen off countless legal threats from bullies armed with expensive lawyers.
More than anything, this election has laid bare just how badly Britain needs more journalism, not less. It must be journalism that is accountable to citizens, not to Downing Street or other factional interests. It must be journalism that asks questions without fear or favour – and doesn’t give up until it gets answers.
We’ve got big plans to grow our team, chase down more stories and hold whoever ‘wins’ this miserable race to account in 2020 and beyond. Please consider supporting our work today – and if you already do, please share the short film below with everyone you know. It really does make a difference. Thank you.