Evening Standard Editor Emeritus Shares Insights at The Salon

The Salon at the Relais welcomed Doug Wills, Editor Emeritus of the London Evening Standard and The Independent, to their breakfast meeting to speak about his experience in the world of news media.

Having spent 15 years as Managing Editor at the Evening Standard, Doug shared his insight into the challenges facing today’s journalists, particularly with the rise of AI and social media, along with behind the scenes stories about the world of news.

Doug explained that he began his career locally, training in journalism at the Thomson Newspapers in Berkshire before becoming a Political Correspondent for the Western Daily Press in Bristol. After moving to London in his early 30s, he joined the Mirror group, helping to launch the London Daily News as Assistant Editor. This then took him on to his successful career at the Evening Standard.

Much of Doug’s speech was, as Relais co-owner Grace Leo noted, ‘under Chatham House Rule’, but Salon members were enthralled by stories of his encounters with famous media moguls including Robert Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch. Doug hypothesised about who the next big hitters in media could be, stating, “It could be Bezos, from Amazon, because he bought The Washington Post and so forth. It could be Richard Branson. It could be any of these players, or it could be somebody completely left field because we are talking about print, and print is now a platform. Everything is multimedia.”

A running thread in Doug’s talk was of the decline in newspaper readership, particularly in relation to the increased use of social media. He referenced two year long Reuters study, stating, “For under 25s, mainstream publications weren’t in the top 20 places that they got their news. They got most of it from Twitter feeds, from WhatsApp, from their friends. They didn’t have responsible journalism as a source. Maybe it has always been that way – it’s always been bar talk, pub talk, and now it’s Twitter and WhatsApp and so forth, but it’s a danger. If anybody wants to get news, and they want to get responsible journalism, then they pay for it through a subscription, because at least with the Times or the Guardian, they can trust them. But that’s down to the responsibility of the person wanting to do that. Everyone expects everything free now, and that’s the danger.”

Doug also made a case for local news platforms, and the vital importance of their continued funding. Due to the decline in traditional news consumptions, and resulting constraints on finances, he said, “Local councils don’t get reported, hardly at all. It means that local courts don’t get covered, hardly at all, and health authorities don’t get covered. Yes, the big stories get covered, but local society breaks down. If the metaverse comes about, if its multimedia, if it’s governed or ruled by Elon Musk, what happens to that structure? What happens to the coverage, to local material?”

When asked how best to deal with fake news, Doug responded, “You can only do it by building up confidence in responsible journalism. That’s the only way it can be done. You can’t stop it because you then become a totalitarian state. If we stopped it in the UK, the World Wide Web is what says, so you can’t stop it. You just have to build up trust.”

Members of The Salon at the Relais have admission to breakfast and evening networking events, as well as the exclusive use of the Palm Court for work in the daytime or social drinks in the evening. The next evening event will be a luxury ‘wine and dine’ experience on May 26th. On 31 May, Giles English, CEO and Co-Founder of Bremont, will be the guest speaker at the Salon’s networking breakfast

If you are interested in becoming a member of The Relais Henley, and gaining access to The Salon, contact the team on 01491 523288 or email info@therelaishenley.com


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