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Weekly Edition - Published  25 January 2016


Local News Report - Mobile Page


IMPRESS want to redefine journalism - Part 1.
Photos and report by Madeleine Saghir

ON 20 January 2015, IMPRESS announced the first members' names and made its charter submission, in its bid to be recognised under a Royal Charter, at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Madeleine Saghir attended this historic and very important event for us. She has written this report about the organisation and the event. We are also interested in your views on this very political topic….

IMPRESS may become the first and only independent press regulator in the UK and a bench mark for others to follow throughout the world. But what and who is IMPRESS and why should our online newspaper join it?

According to the chairman of the association, Walter Merricks, IMPRESS aims to be recognised as a "trusted mark in ethical journalism that attracts innovative editors and reporters." IMPRESS want to raise the ethical standards within journalism and to become the heart of a network for publishers, journalists and academics.

The company calls for a reform of mediation for ethical issues involving media reporting and complaints. In a press release following Lord Justice Levenson's enquiry occasioned by the phone hacking scandals, IMPRESS stated that it "would pursue its purpose through three core activities; complaints handling, arbitration and investigations. It also publishes and promotes research papers with analysis of relevant issues". There is a real need of protection for publishers who cannot afford the high rates charged by IBSO (International Business Standards Organisation). IMPRESS looks the most promising organisation to tackle this matter.

There are a number of factors as to why press may face difficulties. There is an everyday decline of people buying printed news, and an increase for online sources; immediate information is changing all the time. This immediate and constant information can be accessed digitally, which makes it a challenging time for the press. The public do not directly pay for the news they receive online. In fact, most of the money is going towards social media platforms, and broadband. Merricks has said that the strategy of IMPRESS, will be to work with hyperlocal and niche small organisations to help them achieve the requite bench mark standard .

According to researchers (at Cardiff and Birmingham City University), "There are more than 400 active hyperlocal websites in the UK, compared with 1,045 local papers." And according to Merricks, 72% of hyperlocal publishers support IMPRESS. These are the publishers that need protection from the risks they encounter.

IMPRESS will be allowing small websites to sign up for a lower cost than IBSO. Currently, IMPRESS is proposing to charge a modest £50 per year.

Many local newspapers, such as ourselves, are in favour of IMPRESS, due to the need of a fairer arbitration service. The argument of who is to blame when an incorrect statement has been made is an issue that IMPRESS has taken into consideration. It is usually the publisher, rather than the reporter who is liable in most IBSO cases. But, it can be both. However, IMPRESS will change this process of publisher rather than reporter, in order to make a fair trial.

It is also difficult to sue national papers due to high money costs. However, suing a small paper costs a lot less. It is factors such as this that make the idea of an independent press regulator useful in creating greater equality between big and small publishers. Moreover, Merricks has said that:- "Members of the public are not expected to have a court case in order to obtain justice." IMPRESS will also not be awarding people compensation.

However, a number of newspapers have concerns about these changes, and have claimed that it cuts the right to freedom of speech and expression. Yet, Merricks replied to these concerns by saying:- "We too stand for freedom of expression, our doors and minds are open." 
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