10 Years of Press Freedom: “High quality journalism involves a lot of work”

Editor Brendan Montague on why his title, The Ecologist, chose to be independently regulated.

This interview is part of a series featured in Hacked Off’s new report:

Ten Years of Press Freedom.

Ten years after the phone hacking scandal there has been a revolution in Britain’s media landscape, with the creation of the first ever independent press regulator IMPRESS – which is now even more popular than the national press’ industry-controlled complaints-handler, IPSO.  Despite attacks from Government and the national press, the Leveson system of independent regulation is thriving.

This report, with research and interviews with journalists, investigates the media standards revolution, and the pioneering publishers leading the way.

The Ecologist is a well-established news and analysis website. It was launched as a print magazine in 1970, with the aim of raising awareness of the impact our society was having on the natural environment. It proposed significant global policy change and warned about the effect of industrial practices, pollution, and climate breakdown.

Editor Brendan Montague says today, The Ecologist is focused on investigating and reporting on the fossil fuel industry plus economy – whilst maintaining a daily news output.

Brendan says, “our aim is to alert the public about the risks of climate breakdown and ensure that

discussion is on the fossil fuel industry as the main driver of that.

We also discuss things like the fashion industry and a vegan diet. But we mainly focus on system changes, national policy and international agreements, rather than individual behaviour change.”

Brendan says The Ecologist’s journalism is often critical and asking for change.

“We want to name companies which are driving the climate breakdown and pressure major corporations to change their practices. So being threatened with legal action is a concern we must be aware of every time we publish.”

Why join IMPRESS?

Brendan says, “I found that the [IMPRESS] guidelines reflected our own values and desire for transparency and accountability in journalism”.

Brendan says it’s important for The Ecologist to demonstrate its commitment to journalism that is ‘fact based and fair.’

He says, “We need people to trust what we publish and understand that it is not misinformation.

I, as an editor, find it useful to be able to when people write to us with concerns about our reporting to reassure them that we do have a process”.

Brendan Montague, Editor, The Ecologist

Brendan says the IMPRESS complaints process has been integral.

He says,

“Because it’s been designed by an independent organisation, this develops trust for the complainant. If we can’t resolve it internally we can communicate that there is an external body that they can appeal to and I often find that even at the start of the process, when that person knows, at the end they can have an independent adjudicator – it makes that conversation much easier”.

But as Brendan explains, reporting on the climate breakdown presents challenges. He says a lot of news websites are producing high quality content, but running on one to five staff members.

“Having enough reporters, being fearful of being sued and building our audiences are the three main challenges. There is a huge community of policy advisors who keep climate breakdown on the agenda. And what we do is amplify the voices of grassroot activists”.

He adds, “I would appeal to funders that journalism is resource intensive and high quality journalism involves a lot of work.”

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