2009 Year in Review

During 2009 the Media Standards Trust made considerable progress in promoting a more accountable and transparent news media, and in fostering quality journalism.

In February we published ‘A More Accountable Press’ – the first part of our review of press self-regulation. The report, written with the support of a group of experts from the industry and civil society, concluded that the current system of press self-regulation was not effective enough.

The report provoked a strong reaction from the Press Complaints Commission’s then-Chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer. Following the publication of the report the culture media and sport Select Committee began its inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel; The Guardian published further allegations about the News of the World’s phone hacking; and the PCC announced it was setting up its first independent review of governance since its formation in 1991.

In May we re-launched Journalisted to widen its audience and set news articles in greater context. The re-launch included the addition of features unique to Journalisted (such as ‘journalists who write similar articles’ and ‘similar articles’), enhanced full text search, a cleaner design, and API’s to enable people to create new services from our system. The site has grown this year by more than 30% to 140,000 unique users a month.

In July we started our Why Journalism Matters series of lectures, to help make the case for the importance of journalism to our politics and society. The series comes at a time of significant introspection in the industry and during in the midst of growing support for intervention in support of local news. The series began with keynote talks at the British Academy by Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, and Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian. The talks were attended by 200 people, were broadcast on YouTube and Twitter and generated press coverage in the UK and US. In his speech Barber predicted that within 12 months, many of the biggest newspaper titles would be charging for content a prediction that – with 6 months still to run – looks increasingly likely.

In the summer we also held our first ‘news innovation’ un-conference at Nesta. More than 100 people came from across the news and technology fields to discuss, amongst other things, The Guardian’s MP’s expenses crowd-sourcing experiment, the prospects of hyperlocal news organisations, and how to express news better visually on the net.

At the Media Standards Trust unconference we announced the launch of hNews, a draft microformat for news, developed in association with the Associated Press, as part of our transparency initiative – joint funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Knight Foundation. We also unveiled a site, www.valueaddednews.org, that explains what hNews is and why it is so important to the future of news on the internet.

hNews was piloted by openDemocracy. It became an official draft microformat in October 2009. Since its launch, in addition to the Associated Press, Aol has adopted hNews, as has Town News, which supports the publication of over 1,500 newspapers in the US. We are currently working with a number of UK and US news organisations to share best practice and encourage its adoption

Over the course of 2009, in our role as a lead partner of the Orwell Prize, we organised 16 public debates, attended by over 1500 people, on topics ranging from: ‘Are political parties bankrupt?’ with David Davis MP and Frank Field MP, 1984 and Civil Liberties’ with Shami Chakrabarti and Nick Cohen, ‘Afghanistan’ with David Loyn and James Fergusson and ‘What is the big Conservative idea?’ with Ed Vaizey MP and Peter Hitchens.

This is a summary of some of our activities in 2009. For more information, please get in touch.

We are very grateful for the ongoing support of the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, the Gatsby Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.