World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

WAN-IFRA President Michael Golden: Journalists must work harder to reflect society

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

WAN-IFRA President Michael Golden: Journalists must work harder to reflect society

Image: Screenshot from The Local and The Independent

2018 will be remembered for the brutal killing of Washington Post correspondent Jamal Khashoggi, the death of 54 journalists, and intense online and offline harassment, including the extreme hate campaigns against Indian journalist Rana Ayyub and Maria Ressa, CEO of Rappler, Philippines, who was also arrested. US President Donald Trump, his emboldened supporters and their anti-press rhetoric, contributed to the deteriorating mood.

It looks set to continue through 2019. Over the past few months, France, in particular, has been grappling with rising anti-media sentiment. Ever since the ‘yellow vest’ movement took hold in November, journalists have been harassed, verbally abused and physically assaulted by protesters.


Although French news organisations, associations like Reporters Without Borders, and government members were quick to denounce the attacks, a recent survey found that only one third of the French population actually condemned the violence against journalists.

“The safety of journalists is of paramount importance,” says WAN-IFRA President Michael Golden.

“All of the press must report on countries where journalist safety is most threatened. The press's role in holding politicians, the courts, the police forces to account is more important than ever.”

These worrying trends will be addressed at the World News Media Congress in Glasgow in June, a gathering of hundreds of media executives from across the globe.

“These issues are of great importance and are equally complex. Honest and thoughtful discussion of these questions is what the conference promises,” Golden says.

“There is a line up of industry leaders from across the spectrum of media that will engage in these issues.”

WAN-IFRA: Trust in media is still disturbingly low, journalists are no longer seen as a key to holding power to account by frustrated publics and as a result, online harassment of journalists (and violence) is all too common. Why do you think the situation has escalated?

Michael Golden: In many countries, including France and the U.S., large parts of the society have seen their quality of life deteriorate over the last few decades. Purchasing power has been flat or declining. People are working two jobs because they must. This situation has created frustration and anger.

At the same time, there has been an increased concentration of wealth among the top 1 to 5 percent of society. This is a dangerous situation. Trust has declined across many institutions including journalism and the press. Increasingly politicians find it useful to criticise the press and further feed the lack of trust. It is a situation that threatens informed decision-making by citizens.

What effect do you think platforms and social media have on the public's view and trust of the news media?

Social Media includes a broad category. The largest – Facebook, Twitter, Google – are trying to reduce misinformation on their platforms. Governments and the press must continue to point out when they are successful and also when their efforts fall short or are not effective.

The major platforms are increasingly recognising the role they play both for good and for ill.  The responsibility for what is distributed lies with the platforms. History has shown that government and the press play a critical role in holding them accountable to make the changes they must.

What can be done to stem anti-media sentiment?

Journalists and the press must work harder to reflect the experience, the fears and the hopes of society. While economies are growing, the benefit is not evenly shared. Journalists must do a better job of reflecting the situation of all levels of society. Many are working to do that. We can all improve.


Simone Flueckiger's picture

Simone Flueckiger


2019-02-01 14:06

Author information

The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

The 71st World News Media Congress, the 26th World Editors Forum and the 3rd Women in News Summit took place from 1 - 3 June 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.

In this blog, WAN-IFRA provides previews, interviews, summaries of the presentations and other useful information about the Congress.

Participants were also very active on Twitter throughout the event under the hashtag #wnmc19.

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