Gary Jones on taking over Daily Express: ‘It was anti-immigrant. I couldn’t sleep’
The Daily Express
‘The answer is the Daily Express, the once-mighty tabloid newspaper that over the last two decades has become associated with barely veiled racism, a relentless campaign for Britain to leave the EU, and an obsession with Princess Diana.
[Gary Jones] has placed an emphasis on exclusive, original, campaigning and investigative stories while turning down coverage of Tommy Robinson and Steve Bannon – “the BBC gives far more airtime to rightwing propagandists”
“I’m a complete mix of contradictions,” he said, unexpectedly bringing up his children’s education. “I suppose the reason why I sent my son to Eton was, you know, I just wanted to confront the establishment and authority and to try to have a say, but to be authentic. He’s not thanked me for it at times.”
His son was appalled when he found out his father would be swapping chats with Jeremy Corbyn for editing the Daily Express and interviewing Theresa May.
“He just looked at me and said: ‘I feel sick’.”
“It was one of those defining moments. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I said: ‘Good on you for having views.’ He said: ‘I can’t say I don’t feel just a little disappointed.’ And then I said: ‘Anything else?’ He goes: ‘I do hope you’re not doing it just because you need to pay the school fees.’”
But the editor said a recent meeting with Daily Express readers had given him hope his audience did not want to read hateful content: “They reminded me of my parents. They weren’t entirely aware of what the newspaper had become. But they were sucked into it because they’re loyal to the Express.
“They are compassionate, traditional people. I think they were just led down a path.”
“Covering the news requires sending reporters… It’s expensive and inconvenient. Talk, on the other hand, is literally cheap. Round up a few semi-knowledgeable and telegenic types, array them around the desk, and off you go.”
-Jay Rosen teaches journalism at NYU and directs the Studio 20 program there. He is also a media analyst.
How breaking news got panelized: On cable, journalists and pundits increasingly share space.
Within minutes of the announcement that President Trump had agreed to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the cable news networks had their panels of talking heads assembled and ready, like SWAT teams preparing to storm a barricaded house.
Once again, it was time for the panelization of breaking news.
From early in its history, cable news found the panel format — featuring people from different perspectives and disciplines — to be a lively (and cost-efficient) way to deliver opinions on current events. The discussions can be enervating, enlightening or infuriating, depending on who is on which side of the food fight.
But, as the Korean news demonstrated, it’s often hard to tell the reporters from the opinion slingers, especially when the panels bleed into the delivery of the news itself.
News reporters bristle when critics tar them as liberal or conservative. They’re quick to insist that they have nothing to do with the opinion side of their organizations. (“We serve different masters,” Fox News anchorman Shepard Smith told Time magazine this month. “We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules.”)
And yet panels with multiple talking heads arguably make the situation more fraught for them by lumping them with former politicians, think-tank scholars and opinionated party hacks — a blending of news reporting and commentary that’s bound to leave some viewers confused.
Philip Mudd and Will Hurd aren’t reporters. Yet from their perches on CNN or Fox or MSNBC, in the mix of a developing news story, they both certainly look like part of “the news media.”
Back in the rapidly receding past, the lines were much clearer: Just as newspapers physically separate the opinion columns from the news sections, any TV newscast that offered commentary (and many didn’t) would typically schedule it for the end of the broadcast. The goal was to give the public one clean shot at the facts, as a wise editor once put it, by keeping the opinions separate from the news columns.
But the business model of 24-hour cable news may have made the coexistence and commingling of reporting and opinion a near certainty. Covering the news requires sending reporters, producers, editors and video journalists to wherever the news is happening. It’s expensive and inconvenient. Talk, on the other hand, is literally cheap. Round up a few semi-knowledgeable and telegenic types, array them around the desk, and off you go.
Such blabfests have the additional benefit of drawing predictable audiences, which in turn establishes predictable advertising rates, which in turn produces reliable cash flows. All-out coverage of a big news story — with reporters in key locales — can still spike the ratings. But big news stories don’t keep regular hours. Panels do.
The hybrid news-commentary format is on regular display in cable’s evening hours. In a “breaking news”discussion about the latest twist in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation last week, for example, CNN’s Anderson Cooper opened the floor to multiple talking heads: New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, investigative reporter and political analyst Carl Bernstein, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and a former federal prosecutor, Anne Milgram. Opinions flew. So did the occasional news nugget.
On Fox News the same night, host Sean Hannity — whom no one would mistake for a down-the-middle guy — stirred opinion, political spin and journalism about Mueller with a panel that included former Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz, reporter Sara Carter, Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett and journalist John Solomon. MSNBC’s Brian Williams tackled the same topic that night with BBC anchor Katty Kay, former FBI official Frank Figliuzzi and Rick Stengel, a journalist and former State Department official with the administration of President Barack Obama.
The panel model has trained viewers to expect news to be served with a side of opinion, and often the other way around. In a briefly viral interview with Hannity last year, broadcast-news legend Ted Koppel despaired of cable’s increasing partisanship and opinion peddling. Hannity retorted that “we have to give some credit to the American people that they are somewhat intelligent and that they know the difference between an opinion show and a news show.”
But what about when the news show is also an opinion show?
“If they can provide context, they can help a viewer understand the story,” he said. It’s the moderator’s job, he said, to identify who’s trafficking in facts, and who’s there to opine. At their worst, he acknowledges, they can become “cheap-shot yelling matches that are just showbiz.”
Jeffrey Lord, a veteran of many news-commentary hybrid panels, defended the format. Opinions have always infected news stories, he argues, so the notion that they should remain separate on cable news is dubious at best.
“Yes, news and opinion should stay in their respective places,” said Lord, who spoke in behalf of candidate DT as a CNN contributor during the 2016 campaign. “I used to believe this. Now? I am not convinced that they ever did and that news consumers like my younger self were not hornswoggled in some fashion to think that was true.” He calls the panel format “the 21st century way of hashing out issues.”
Representatives of CNN, Fox and MSNBC declined to comment.
Cable is hardly the only medium to blur the lines between news and commentary these days. Newspapers lace their front pages and home pages with the occasional editorial or critic’s review; a burgeoning subgenre of reporting that promises “analysis” of the news, rather than the news itself, can often seem like a blend of the two forms.
Even when news organizations take pains to draw distinctions, in the digital age, it can often be hard to discern whether the headline that drifted through your Twitter or Facebook feed was an actual news report or just someone’s “take” on the matter.
As is, old-school news reporting is in steep decline. Roughly half as many journalists work in newspapers compared with a decade ago. As the volume of available facts declines, the void has been filled with an explosion of commentary.
Meanwhile, news organizations fret over the surveys showing that people in ever increasing numbers distrust “the news media.” But cable’s free-for-all panels, and the many other ways opinions cohabit with reporting, suggest another question: Does anyone even know what “the news media” is any more?