1st Edition

Populism, the Pandemic and the Media Journalism in the age of Covid, Trump, Brexit and Johnson

    Populism is on the rise across the globe. Authoritarian populist leaders have taken over and solidified their control over many countries. Their power has been cemented during the global coronavirus pandemic, though perhaps the defeat of populist-in-chief Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential election (despite his continuing protestations to the contrary) has seen the start of the waning of this phenomenon?

    In the UK Brexit is 'done'; Britain is firmly out of the EU; Covid is vaccinated against; and Boris Johnson has a huge parliamentary majority and, despite never-ending problems, of his own and others' making, his grip on power with a parliamentary majority of more than 80, still seems secure. Meanwhile culture wars continue to rage.

    How has media, worldwide, contributed, fulled or fought this populism. Cheerleaders? Critics? Supplicants?

    This book examines those questions in 360 degrees with a distinguished cast of authors from journalism and academia.


    Acknowledgements ix

    The Editors

    Introduction: Journalism under pressure but still a force for good

    Nick Robinson, presenter, Today programme, BBC Radio Four

    Section 1: January 6 and the end of Trumpism?

    Dispatches and analysis from the heart of the 21st century American drama

    Raymond Snoddy

    1. January 6 and the challenge to American television journalism

    Robert Moore, US correspondent, ITV News

    2. Ego uber alles: Will the Trump brand play on?

    Matt Frei, presenter, Channel 4 News

    3. Politics, pandemics and the race that Trumped all others

    Jon Sopel, BBC North America Editor

    4. How close Donald Trump came to victory in 2020 – and what it means

    David Cowling, King’s College London, former BBC editor of political research

    5. Navigating the Trump storm

    Bill Dunlop, former President and CEO of Eurovision Americas, Inc

    6. How Trump’s abuse of the media has changed America forever

    Philip John Davies, Emeritus Professor of American Studies,

    De Montfort University, Leicester

    7. Donald Trump: Populist victim of partisan impeachment?

    Clodagh Harrington, Associate Professor of American Politics,

    De Montfort University. Leicester

    8. The lie in the machine: Truth, big tech and the limits of free speech

    Mark Thompson, former Director-General of the BBC and CEO of the

    New York Times


    Section 2: UK politics and the media

    Reporting the populist wave

    Richard Tait

    9. Public reactions to Brexit and Covid-19

    Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics, Strathclyde University

    10. When news broadcasters became critical workers

    Gary Gibbon, Political Editor, Channel 4 News

    11. Johnson and Oborne: Parallel lives, diverging views

    Raymond Snoddy, media journalist

    12. Johnson and journalism: Anonymous sources in senior journalists’

    social media feeds

    David Smith and Julian Matthews, Lecturers in Media and Communication,

    University of Leicester

    13. (Most) Populists aren’t what they seem…

    Peter York, cultural commentator, President of the Media Society

    14. Must Labour lose?

    Tor Clark, Associate Professor in Journalism, University of Leicester

    15. The pursuit of truth… or not

    Dorothy Byrne, former Head of News and Current Affairs, Channel 4

    Section 3: Covid, journalism and society

    The vaccine may be working on the population, but what about the

    health of the media?

    John Mair

    16. When the politics of science met the science of politics

    Juliet Rix, science and current affairs journalist

    17. The virus and journalism: Telling truth to the hacks?

    Alan Rusbridger, Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford; former editor,

    The Guardian

    18. The view from the hospital frontline

    Dr Julian Barwell, Clinical Geneticist and Honorary Professor in

    Genomic Medicine at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust

    19. Covering Covid reveals uncomfortable truths

    Mark Easton, BBC Home Affairs Editor


    20. Populism, anti-system politics and the media: A spotlight on Covid-19

    Robert Dover, Professor of Criminology, University of Hull

    21. Now you see ‘race’, now you don’t: The hyper-visibility and hyper-invisibility

    of race and Covid-19 in political and public health discourse

    Paul Ian Campbell, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Leicester

    22. Messengers as well as messages in the spotlight

    Raymond Snoddy, media journalist

    Section 4: Outside the metropolitan elite

    Introduction: The future of this United Kingdom is in the hands of those

    far removed from those who think they rule us

    Neil Fowler

    23. The pandemic and the provincial press

    Tor Clark, Associate Professor in Journalism, University of Leicester

    24. How Britain ends

    Gavin Esler, former presenter, BBC Newsnight

    25. Who was the godfather of the new populism? Archie Gemmill

    or Alex Salmond?

    Maurice Smith, Scottish business journalist

    26. Political reality and the issue of perception between Boris and Nicola

    John McLellan, former editor of The Scotsman, director of communications

    for Scottish Conservatives 2012-13 193

    27. Upper-case Unionism vs lower-case unionism: Populism on the streets

    of Northern Ireland

    Gail Walker, Editor-at-large, Belfast Telegraph

    28. How populism turned against devolution in Wales

    Martin Shipton, Political Editor-at-large of the Western Mail

    29. Life the other side of the Red Wall

    David Banks, former editor, Daily Mirror

    30. A tale of two challenges: How did the media report Brexit and

    Covid in South Asian communities?

    Barnie Choudhury, Professor of Professional Practice, University of Buckingham

    and former BBC broadcast journalist


    Section 5: Boris and Brexit

    The role played by the beastly Europeans and their Euromyths

    John Mair

    31. Are the ‘beastly Europeans’ really ‘trying to do us in’?

    James Mates, Europe Editor, ITV News

    32. How Britain was let down by its press over Brexit –

    and how that can change

    Will Hutton, former Principal of Hertford College, Oxford and columnist,

    The Observer

    33. Did the British ever understand the European project?

    Deborah Bonetti, UK correspondent, Il Giorno and director of the

    Foreign Press Association in London

    34. Al promised you a miracle – Life under ‘greased piglet’ Johnson

    Steven McCabe, Associate Professor and Senior Fellow, Centre for Brexit Studies

    and Institute of Design and Economic Acceleration, Birmingham City University

    35. Deceptively silly – the role of the cucumber in Boris Johnson’s ideology

    Imke Henkel, Senior Lecturer in Journalism, University of Lincoln

    36. Getting Brexit done and the future of the UK-EU relationship

    Alistair Jones, Associate Professor in Politics, De Montfort University, Leicester

    Section 6: The new populism and the media

    The undermining of truth in a changing and unreliable media environment

    Raymond Snoddy

    37. Artificial intelligence and extremist content: a recipe for insurgency

    Alex Connock, Fellow in Management Practice (Marketing),

    Said Business School, Oxford University

    38. ‘Enemies of the people?’ Will populism be the death of

    impartial journalism?

    Richard Tait, Professor of Journalism, Cardiff University

    39. The populist press: Conservatism, ‘common sense’ and culture wars

    Julian Petley, Professor of Journalism, Brunel University London

    40. Journalism ethics in a populist age

    Sara McConnell, University Teacher in Journalism, University of Sheffield

    41. Journalism safety in the time of populism: A cautionary tale from the US

    Elena Cosentino, director of the International News Safety Institute

    42. Insurrection or over reaction? One afternoon in Manchester

    Jim White, sports writer, the Daily Telegraph

    43. Over here, over there: Lessons from the USA on why British TV

    journalism needs to stay fair and impartial

    Clive Myrie, BBC BBC News journalist and presenter,

    RTS Journalist of the Year, 2021

    44. Misinformation and the decline of shared experience

    Ken Goldstein, President of Communications Management Inc,

    based in Canada


    This is John Mair’s fortieth book as an editor. All have been ‘hackademic’ volumes

    mixing the work of leading journalists and academics. He invented the genre with

    Richard Keeble. In the last year he has edited 11 books, five on the pandemic,

    three on the future of the BBC, two on Boris and Brexit for Abramis and one on

    ‘Oil Dorado’ in Guyana. His previous books have covered a wide piste from the

    Arab Spring, the Leveson Inquiry, data journalism and the works of VS Naipaul.

    He invented the Coventry Conversations which attracted 350 media movers and

    shakers to Coventry University. Six million have downloaded the podcasts. Today

    he runs the weekly My Jericho events in Oxford (myjericho.co.uk) which attract

    local and national movers and shakers. In previous lives he was an award-winning

    producer/director for the BBC, ITV and Channel Four and a secondary school


    Tor Clark is Associate Professor in Journalism, BA Journalism programme

    director, Deputy Head of the School of Media, Communication and Sociology

    at the University of Leicester, UK, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education

    Academy. After studying Politics and History at Lancaster University, he worked

    for the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, before becoming editor, first of the

    Harborough Mail in Leicestershire, and then of Britain’s oldest newspaper, the

    Rutland & Stamford Mercury. Previously he was Principal Lecturer in Journalism

    and Associate Director of Learning and Teaching at De Montfort University in

    Leicester. As a political journalist he has covered eight UK general elections, the

    last four for BBC Leicester, where he is a regular commentator on politics and


    Neil Fowler has been in journalism since graduation, starting life as trainee

    reporter on the Leicester Mercury. He went on to edit four regional dailies,

    including The Journal in the north east of England and the Western Mail in Wales.

    He was then publisher of the Toronto Sun in Canada before returning to the UK

    to edit Which? magazine. In 2010/11 he was the Guardian Research Fellow at

    Oxford University’s Nuffield College where he investigated the decline and future

    of regional and local newspapers in the UK. From then until 2016 he helped

    organise the college’s prestigious David Butler media and politics seminars. As well

    as being an occasional contributor to trade magazines he now acts as an adviser to

    organisations on their management, external and internal communications and

    media policies and strategies.


    Raymond Snoddy OBE, after studying at Queen’s University in Belfast, worked

    on local and regional newspapers, before joining The Times in 1971. Five years later

    he moved to the Financial Times and reported on media issues before returning to

    The Times as media editor in 1995. He is now a freelance journalist writing for a

    range of publications. He presented NewsWatch on the BBC from its inception in

    2004 until 2012. His other television work has included presenting Channel 4’s

    award-winning series Hard News. In addition, he is the author of a biography of

    the media tycoon Michael Green and of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which

    looked at the UK national press in the 1990s. He was awarded an OBE for his

    services to journalism in 2000.

    Richard Tait CBE is Professor of Journalism at the School of Journalism, Media

    and Culture, at Cardiff University. From 2003 to 2012, he was director of the

    school’s Centre for Journalism. He was editor of Newsnight from 1985 to 1987,

    editor of Channel 4 News from 1987 to 1995 and editor-in-chief of ITN from

    1995 to 2002. He was a BBC governor and chair of the governors’ programme

    complaints committee from 2004 to 2006, and a BBC Trustee and chair of the

    Trust’s editorial standards committee from 2006 to 2010. He is a Fellow of the

    Royal Television Society and the Society of Editors, and a board member of the

    International News Safety Institute.