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As I See it

Don’t overestimate influence of Fleet Street

Terry Murden
Editor: Terry Murden

Watched an item on the BBC’s Newsnight about how the Brexit-supporting newspapers appear to have shifted their views and how, apparently, this is going to influence public opinion.  Well, the BBC would suggest this as it still believes the media is run by a small group of print publications who determine the way we all think.

It is true that Geordie Greig, new editor of the Daily Mail and even the Brexit-rampant Daily Express, now under new owner Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror) have adopted a softer, more conciliatory tone.

According to media watchers this move by Fleet Street’s moguls to be more accommodating towards the Prime Minister’s negotiations with the EU, will be important in determining how the public responds to her attempts to get the Brussels agreement through parliament.

What patronising, outdated, London Metropolitan claptrap. More likely is that the newspaper owners and editors have noticed a shift in public opinion across the country and, rather than shaping it they are actually following it.

Newspapers hate to be out of tune with the prevailing mood and pay the penalty when they oppose it. The Sun cleverly stayed neutral in the last Scottish General Election when it was too close to call, while The Scotsman paid the price for opposing independence in 2014 when it also should have been more sensitive to the even split in the country.

Smart editors don’t try to dictate public opinion; they are alert to how the public is thinking, then back them. Rupert Murdoch has been a master at judging the public mood and by waiting until the last moment to declare his hand he has been seen as an influencer when, in truth, he has been influenced by public opinion.

Polls show that the country would now vote to remain in the EU but are beginning to accept that if Brexit is inevitable then the deal on the table may be the best we can expect. The newspapers know this is the direction of travel and are hitching a ride.

Let’s not get carried away with their influence. They may still reach millions of readers, but the media landscape is much changed with so many other voices offering opinions. Mr Greig is just one such voice and, as such, he will be heard among millions of others.


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