RTS Isle of Man’s maiden Zoom event in early May brought together three of the island’s leading journalists: the BBC’s Alex Bell, Josh Stokes from ITV and PMC TV correspondent Paul Moulton, all of whom attend the Manx Government’s coronavirus briefings.
The panel argued that that covering the Covid-19 crisis is providing a major public service and has revolutionised the way the local media operates on the Isle of Man.
Moulton described how, in these fractious times, journalists “take a hammering online” for repeating questions. In their defence, he said that ‘doubling-up’ is for the purpose of clarity, as the Covid-19 situation is constantly evolving, particularly with regards to education.
The BBC’s Bell was asked whether taking a “David Frost approach” – softening up the interviewee and then following it up with a “killer question” – was possible at the briefings. He replied that “Manx journalists can’t afford to make enemies”. A no-nonsense yet cordial approach is often the best way.
European Broadcasting Union research has shown that UK journalists are the least trusted in Europe. ITV’s Stokes expressed concern but hoped that the spotlight of live briefings would put reporters in a more positive light. “It also works both ways,” he said, pointing out that live broadcasts helped to hold politicians to account to a greater extent than written editorials.
“Restoring trust in politicians and journalists,” Bell said, “is hopefully one of many silver linings.”
The panel were quizzed by Manx Radio presenter Beth Espey and by the online audience at the event, “The new news: How journalists are covering Covid-19 on the Isle of Man”.