Blog | Local media cuts are devastating news

As one of XR Bristol’s Press Coordinators, Jennifer Stevenson expresses her regret and rage at the local media job cuts and her support for all independent journalists contributing to upholding democracy.

Photo credit: Jennifer Stevenson

The job cuts that have just been announced to journalists on the Bristol Post and the Western Daily Press are devastating news. As one of XR Bristol’s press coordinators I want to express my regret, rage and support…

We need journalists. 

“The media” isn’t the enemy. That’s my personal opinion, as an ex-journalist, which I express through my work with Bristol’s Media and Messaging team.

We’re going to love some of them, hate quite a few of them. Many journalists personally support what we’re doing. But their job isn’t to support everything we do: they’re supposed to be independent. 

Someone pays their salaries – guess what, that’s advertisers. (Are you paying a subscription for your news feed?) We need to be smart about working with them. 

I can tell you from working closely with the Bristol Post this month: it was already shocking how few boots-on-the-ground journalists there are, with specialised knowledge or contacts, or the time to pursue a story.

Without that, each individual story can be like Groundhog Day – it’s very difficult to move the public debate forwards.

The Post gave lots of very positive coverage to our most recent actions about air pollution in Bristol. Was that because the staffers , and their bosses, understand the importance of the issues? Had we just hit the sweet spot with actions that hit the public imagination? Or was it that we were sending them great images and well-written press releases? And if that works for Extinction Rebellion does it work the same way for… Bristol Airport, Bristol Port Company?) 

When XR’s activists were camped out on the roof of City Hall, Post journalists were asking us each day: “Are they STILL up there? Why isn’t the Mayor talking to you?”

We were pushing the Mayor for a public response. Local reporters can have more leverage. But they do need more time to push beyond a “no comment” from the council press office.

Activists will always think that the media isn’t progressive enough. But the Post HAS published some significant and high-profile climate crisis features.

The editor also stuck his neck out to repair relations with the city’s black community (following this backlash last year):

He’s resigned. (In view of these swingeing staff cuts, that’s commendable.) 

Today’s bright media graduates aren’t being snapped up by local papers and radio stations. They’re being recruited to the comms teams of businesses, councils, health authorities, water authorities, charities, NGOs… and Extinction Rebellion. All of us are crafting sophisticated press releases and designing media-worthy events.

Citizen journalism isn’t going to cut through the chatter of all that for mainstream audiences. We need trained, professional journalists. Good luck to them. 

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