If content is King, why is British journalism dying?

March 23, 2009

It is increasingly clear – from reports such as this and this today – that regional and national newspapers in the UK and further afield, particularly in the States, are suffering from reduced advertising revenues, falling readerships and a general sense of not being as relevant as they once were. The response from Management?

Continue to slash editorial.

The journalists which make up the very heart of these long-standing, influential, once-respected and admired publications – what do the number-crunchers do with this most invaulable professional resource? Get rid.

Reduce costs. Save marginal amounts of cash and centralise the news-gathering function. Eliminate the regional editorial and bring it in line with a stream-lined, anodyne, lifeless, soul-less, central, pared-down reporting function.

De-motivate the existing long-term reporters and over-worked section editors to a point where they feel compelled to take (profitable for Management) redundancy packages. Push more editorial work onto the young, hungry NCTJ entrants, they can take it. As for the rest? Let them write press releases for the stable of PR Agencies who provide the gaps in copy for us…

Cynical? Not really. I saw this pattern emerging years ago when the big ‘R’ loomed for myself and my team at Northcliffe. Back then, when departments were closed or reduced, it was always the same story – cuts from London.

But, to be fair, at least we could understand that it was the start of the rot. It’s been quite a few years since that date – and still the Management haven’t invested in other revenue streams and embraced the online opportunities available to protect and nourish the future for the most valuable asset they have – the editorial staff.

Would I work on a daily newspaper desk in this country again? Given today‘s News, highly unlikely.


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