Expect more negative coverage, most journalists say

Research from nfpSynergy finds that more than two-thirds of journalists surveyed believe there will be more coverage focusing on charity failures

More than two-thirds of journalists believe charities should expect more negative media coverage in the future, according to new research from nfpSynergy.

The research consultancy’s Journalists’ Attitudes & Awareness Monitor, based on an online survey of 162 journalists carried out between October and November 2015, says that 70 per cent either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement "I think there will be more critical media coverage of charities in the future"; only 6 per cent disagreed.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents, each of whom had covered at least one charity story in the six months before participating in the survey, said they believed the media should be doing more to scrutinise charities; 7 per cent thought this was unnecessary.

Almost half of the respondents – 45 per cent – said they thought charities had responded well on the whole to recent media coverage; 21 per cent said they thought the opposite.

Sixty-eight per cent said they thought charity fundraising needed to be regulated more tightly; 6 per cent disagreed. Just over half – 52 per cent – said they believed such regulation should be tighter even if it meant charities raised less money; 18 per cent said they did not believe this.

The monitor says that the majority of journalists – 57 per cent – disagreed with the statement "I would be less likely to cover a story about a charity beneficiary because of recent media stories", and just over half – 51 per cent – denied they would be less likely to cover charity campaigns.

The journalists were asked if they believed charities had done a good job of defending and explaining their fundraising practices in light of recent media coverage. The editor of a multimedia news agency, who was not named, said: "There has been a patchy response. I think the vast majority of people still believe charities do a good job, but more financial scrutiny is inevitable and I sense a reluctance among many charities to accept that and be proactive in their response."

A reporter on a daily newspaper responded: "I think they have. However, it was a situation that should have never happened in the first place. Although I think the charities in question were wrong, I do not think they were to blame. The regulations in place were to blame."

Karen Barker, a researcher at nfpSynergy, said: "This research shows that although media scrutiny of the charity sector is the new normal, journalists are still keen to showcase the great work that charities do.

"Journalists see themselves as gatekeepers to the general public’s attention and, ultimately, their donations. They take this responsibility very seriously. Media teams need to be prepared to demonstrate transparency and integrity before they can expect journalists to provide them with a platform."

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