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David Williams Talk

Last Friday politics students were given a talk by one of ITV's most successful journalists and Podcaster, David Williams. Williams is acclaimed for his award winning Podcast and series on the partygate scandal which for the first time gave the public a chance to hear from the whistleblowers and previously anonymous sources which had provided the crucial information that brought the scandal to life.


We started our talk on the topic of Williams’ own passion, the media itself. Like many, Williams feels the media landscape in the UK is evolving, with traditional TV news still playing a significant role, especially for older audiences and decision-makers. However, podcasts are growing in influence, particularly among opinion-formers, though their reach remains limited compared to mainstream media. Of course, Social media has become increasingly important for news consumption, but many view it sceptical due to concerns about bias and misinformation.

UK newspapers have clear political alignments, ranging from left-leaning publications like The Guardian to right-leaning ones like The Telegraph. These newspapers are less regulated than broadcast media and can be more openly partisan. With print circulation declining, many papers have resorted to more sensationalist headlines to maintain readership.

Public trust in news sources varies, with the BBC generally seen as reliable and trustworthy. There's ongoing debate about the BBC's funding model and its role as a public service broadcaster. Other broadcasters like ITV also have public service obligations but are funded differently, creating a complex media ecosystem.

Crucially, David Williams underpins that recent political events, such as the Brexit referendum and its aftermath, have significantly impacted media coverage and public trust. The "partygate" scandal involving Boris Johnson was a major story that unfolded over many months, and in that time often dominated the headlines with very high viewership figures. 

The talk explored how scandals unfold, beginning with initial denials that lead to further investigations. New evidence can emerge gradually, keeping stories in the news cycle. The scandal highlighted the crucial role of the media in uncovering information and holding politicians accountable.

Journalists face significant challenges in maintaining impartiality when covering polarising stories. They must balance the need to report news with the risk of being seen as partisan, and deal with accusations of bias from different political sides. This is particularly challenging in an era of heightened political polarisation.

The importance of trust and accuracy in journalism was emphasised, especially for public broadcasters who need to maintain credibility. Fact-checking and verification are increasingly emphasised in newsrooms, with trust seen as a key currency in the current media environment.

Finally, the impact of social media and online sources on news consumption was discussed. These platforms are changing how people, especially younger generations, access and engage with news. However, they also create echo chambers and filter bubbles, presenting challenges in terms of misinformation and fact-checking.


Johnny T and Imogen H

Politics prefects