Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

In a lecture to students at the University of East London (13.3.2008) Nicholas Jones had to consider some difficult questions. Is Britain governed more effectively because of the power and patronage exercised by the news media? And, more to the point, does the British press, despite the trivialisation and sensationalism of much of its coverage, serve the democratic process and help deliver better government?

Nicholas Jones was asked by the Local Government Association to speak at a conference in London (25.2.2008) on strengthening local democracy and address the question: How councillors can get a better press and is this diferent from individual councillors getting a good press?

My advice to local councillors when considering how to promote your work and that of your authority has to be pretty blunt: set your political differences aside, at least some of the time; do act collectively; and do go on the offensive. For some years I have been a regular lecturer with the Young Local Authority programme which runs courses to encourage young thinkers and speakers in the local authorities. Your youngest staff are some of the most enthusiastic and most committed public servants in the country and what they tell me is that they only wish their councillors would do more to raise the profile of council work and to stand up to the negative reporting which appears in so many of their local newspapers.

Nicholas Jones spoke at a meeting organised by the National Union of Journalists in Swansea (20.2.2008) in support of the union's campaign for recognition at the South Wales Evening Post. Jones said that journalists of his generation should do all they could to help the journalists of tomorrow adjust to the commercial and ethical pressures imposed by the dramatic pace of change in the news media. He believed more should be done to advise young journalists on how to respond to the challenging dilemmas they face.

Debate at Literary and Historical Society, University College Dublin, January 30, 2008:

The news media should not be permitted to intrude upon the privacy of public figures. Nicholas Jones, a member of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, spoke in support of the motion:

I afraid there is no turning back: whether we like it not, media intrusion is all around us, in the old media as much as in the burgeoning new media. And it is not just journalists and a new generation of citizen journalists who are to blame. Inside of all of us there is what seems to have become an inner understanding of what interests and excites the media. Indeed I would go as far as to suggest that this is almost reflected in our genes, a component if you like of our 21st-century genome.

Speech to political and parliamentary correspondents, Bakhu, Azerbaijan. 20.9.2006 

British political journalism is livelier, more sensational -- and potentially more dangerous for politicians and governments -- than in most other European countries. The main reason is that the British newspapers are very political in what they say and extremely powerful when it comes to deciding what is news and influencing their readers. The press does often dictate the political agenda and there is no doubt that if the Prime Minister of the day is unpopular and has lost the support of the main newspapers, then that can sometimes be enough to ensure that the government of the day is defeated.

Unlike much of Europe, Britain does not tend to have coalition governments; our elections tend to be clear cut, either the party in power is defeated or re-elected. Only very rarely do we have what we call a hung Parliament where no party has an overall majority. Our newspapers thrive in this volatile environment and the newspapers often change sides: one year they might support the government, the next the Opposition and this can be very significant because our newspapers have far larger circulations than comparable newspapers in the rest of Europe. We have seven newspapers which sell more than a million copies a day. Our nearest neighbouring country is France which like Britain has a population of around 60 million people, but it does not have a single newspaper selling a million copies, the biggest sale is only half a million.