Jeremy Thompson: 'Fake News Biggest Editorial Challenge of our Age'

With rumours both the BBC and Sky might close their 24-hour news operations, the spread of digital 'fake news' on channels worldwide presented the "biggest editorial challenge of our age" according to the "face of Sky News" Jeremy Thompson.

Speaking at The Media Society and London Press Club's Christmas Drinks at The Groucho Club he expanded: “Right now, 24-hour news is almost as much under threat as  the terrestrial channels.” 

He also made reference to “rumours that the BBC may not  continue its 24-hour news channels and merge them into a digital service,” in front of a packed audience.

The veteran Sky anchor also made reference to his new book, “Breaking News – An  Autobiography”, which is released this month. 

It Might be a Bluff - It Might Not

“It may be a bluff but I wouldn’t be surprised if they kicked it into  touch”, Thompson added referring to the “tactic" by Fox to  threaten to close down Sky News. "Things are moving incredibly  rapidly. What comes next?”   

Fake news had a “considerable influence in the Trump election”,  he recalled from his coverage, and although “misinformation  and propaganda were nothing new, it can now be delivered in  digital fashion around the world in seconds.

“We have a battle on our hands to retain the faith of the  listening public – our journalists must continue to fight the good  fight”, urged Thompson. 

Asked by Michael Cockerell, the BBC’s  political documentary film maker, about career peaks Thompson told how he had got to know Nelson Mandela, whom he described as “the most  charismatic man I have ever known”, while covering “the biggest story of the first half if the 1990s” as South Africa  underwent “the growing pangs of democracy.”

Am I a Walking Museum Piece?

Thompson joked that he was often mistaken for the zombie-hunting character in ‘Shaun of the Dead’, and that he  did sometimes fell “like a walking museum piece” after “a career that’s been fantastically fun and a career that “no doubt  a very few people will have the chance to do.”   

He told how his journalism began at the Cambridge Evening  News before joining BBC local radio in the early days, covering  the Yorkshire Ripper story of Radio Leeds. 

He recalled how he realised how new technology had arrived  when he was able to transmit two hours of live broadcasting  after the Paris attacks on an iPhone. 

“It’s an extraordinary leap. Crews used to travel the world with cases full of gear but nowadays you can do it on a cellphone.” 

Also in the audience were Carole Stone CBE and her husband and former broadcaster Richard Lindley, Doug Wills, chair of the  London Press Club and managing editor of the Evening  Standard.

Paul Connew, former editor of the Sunday Mirror,  now a media consultant and journalist,  was also in attendance, as well as many  members and directors of The Media Society and the London  Press Club.

Image Credit: Alice Hearing for the Media Society 
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