The Coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on just how much we all need credible and reliable journalism during times of crisis.
The pandemic has dominated coverage in all national newspapers and broadcast media and rightly so. Stories on other news items have generally fallen away or been pushed down the pecking order to feed the public’s thirst for information on this unprecedented event.
On the whole, the reporting of the crisis has been accurate and has helped us all understand the nature of the pandemic as well as the steps we can all take to help stunt its spread.
Some of the general news coverage has been criticised for being overly alarmist and exaggerated, while political hacks have themselves been slammed for failing to hold the UK Government to account for its slow and hit-and-miss approach to containing the virus.
Covid coverage in the business news pages of the nationals and property press (Redwood’s specialism) however, has been less contentious. The coverage has generally been informative and balanced, focusing on the likely impact to the global economy and the worst hit business sectors.
Education, retail, transport and the hospitality industry have been among the sectors worst hit by the pandemic. However, real estate has been hit hardest, according to the latest Red Flag Alert report from Begbies Traynor.
Indeed, stories on the tense relationship between commercial property landlords and their (largely retail but also some office) tenants have jumped to the top of the business news agenda in recent weeks, with prominent stories on the stand-off featuring in the Times, Sunday Times and the FT.
With many retailers unable to pay rents due to enforced store closures following the lockdown, many prominent stories have analysed how viable a shift to turnover-based rents would be and how landlords would stomach such a change. One such story saw the head of property at Mike Ashley’s retail empire calling for the old leasing model to be torn up and replaced by turnover rents, while others reported on landlords joining forces to call for better treatment by the UK Government and shining a light on the unscrupulous tactics used by many retailers and leisure operators that have stopped paying rent but could easily do so. This story will run and run until a compromise is reached between landlords and tenants, or the Government intervenes.
The real estate sector remains at the forefront of coverage today as the general public and employers prepare for a phased return to work. With most people working in offices, landlords and employers’ plans to ensure their people can work safely and effectively in their buildings are now being scrutinised. This type of coverage can serve to reassure the public that UK Plc is doing everything in its power to instigate a safe return to work as we all adjust to a very different ‘new normal’.
When it comes to PR and media relations, the Covid crisis has been a real challenge. With the news pages dominated by stories on the pandemic, many corporate communications professionals have been in defensive mode – protecting their clients and ensuring their reputations remain in one piece. However, after delivering two months of almost blanket Coronavirus coverage, journalists are now pressing for more non-Covid stories so now might be the time for media coverage – like everyday life – to revert to business as usual.