*This article has been amended. Please see final paragraph
According to polls of public trust in the professions, people have a low opinion of journalists. Yet they play a vital, usually impartial role in providing us with the information we need to make decisions about our lives, our communities and our government. Working with charities they can help shine a light, engage and change lives.
The BBC’s decision to cancel Victoria Derbyshire’s popular and informative show illustrates the shrinking space for distinctive journalism. The programme explored topics often excluded from mainstream media and gave voice to the victims of crime and the marginalised: survivors of historic sexual abuse, those from the children’s care system, young people with mental health problems, people living in poverty.
The National Autistic Society’s Jane Harris says: “A number of our beneficiaries' stories have been heard publicly because of the show. Sometimes this is via us pitching their stories, but also through direct contact with reporters.”
Weaving social issues into the storylines of TV soaps can reach millions and challenge perceptions. Rose Ayling-Ellis is the first deaf member of the cast of EastEnders. The National Deaf Children’s Society is working closely with the show. Richard Kramer, the chief executive of the disability charity Sense, is pleased that one of the nation’s favourite shows has introduced a well-informed storyline exploring the daily experiences faced by deaf people.
“We currently see far too little representation of disabled people and disability issues in mainstream media,” he says. “This is a huge amount of people who don’t see themselves or their life experiences reflected in the shows they love”.
From documentary reporting to turning fact into fiction, proper journalism can still give voice to those so often left out of the story.
This article has been amended to clarify that Richard Kramer is the chief executive of Sense, not the NDCS, as originally stated.