|Jim Waterson Media editor, The Guardian|AIWA! NO!|The culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, who is responsible for overseeing the British media industry, has told an audience of newspaper editors that he doesn’t subscribe to any British newspapers or magazines.
He said he “generally reads a summary of newspapers and certain comment pieces” and had a subscription to Time magazine, while getting his news by listening to BBC Radio 4 and watching BBC TV news. He said he also enjoyed certain columnists in the Times.
Asked five times to name a female columnist he enjoyed reading, he named the Daily Telegraph’s Allison Pearson.
Wright, a former lawyer who is also responsible for digital industries and regulating social media, has faced questions about his understanding of the media industry. He did not have a Twitter account before taking up his new job in the summer.
In an appearance at the annual Society of Editors conference in Salford, he said quality British journalism was “not sufficiently rewarded” but any proposals on a new government-supported funding model would have to wait for the conclusion of the Cairncross review of the British newspaper industry.
“I’m confident that the review will show that there are ways for quality journalism to go from strength to strength,” he said, suggesting there could be a particular provision for the funding of struggling local newspapers.
“Our press has a level of trust and freedom that is rightly envied across the world, but a free and trusted press must also be a sustainable press,” he said.
Wright said the “transfer of trust from generation to generation can no longer be taken for granted” and news outlets needed to invest in investigative journalism and authoritative reporting of politics.
“We need to persuade the public of the value of this kind of journalism to help the public to rediscover the difference between the things you see online that just aren’t true and good quality journalism.”
He also said newsrooms must diversify the social and geographic background of their employees in order to remain relevant and attract readers: “Ask probing questions about the make-up of your own organisations, not simply because it’s the right thing to do but because it makes good business sense.”
He spoke out against politicians using parliamentary privilege to break court injunctions, such as when Peter Hain identified the Topshop boss Sir Philip Green as the subject of a series of articles in the Daily Telegraph.
“It’s a matter for Peter Hain but as a former attorney general it is very important to respect what the court has decided,” said Wright. “I wouldn’t have done it if I had been in his position but I’m not going to criticise him for what he did. I don’t think it’s sensible of us to push the limits of parliamentary privilege too far.”