Posts Tagged 'Press Gazette'

Alas poor Press Gazette

When the trade magazine for an industry closes, it’s a sure sign that things aren’t looking good for said industry. When the trade magazine for an industry that includes magazines closes… well, you tell me what that means. Nothing good, that’s for sure.

The Press Gazette has been bumping along, barely getting by, for a while now so while today’s announcement is somewhat of a shock it can’t be said to be a surprise.

The publication will be mourned by those in the media and rightly so. Not too long ago it was still essential reading. Even when it switched from a weekly to a monthly and got by on reduced staff it was still worth reading, if only as a place where you could get a reasonably comprehensive roundup of national, local and regional and it still provided food for thought.

But the writing has been on the wall for a while, as illustrated nicely by Dave Lee’s anecdotal post. It was still important reading but not vital reading. It was useful but the website wasn’t a daily must-read.

If anything its demise acts as a pretty good barometer and illustration of the industry itself. It was struggling with declining revenues, cutting costs, struggling with whether it was a print or online publication and, most importantly of all, struggling to stay relevant in an online world. It was just about managing this, but having mediaguardian.co.uk as a competitor didn’t help.

More worrying is what this means – and says – about the media itself. We’ve already seen other big name publications, most notably Maxim, disappear from our shelves.

And while we’re not quite at the levels of the US where several big names have gone, local press is seriously struggling to keep going here. Plenty of people I’ve trained with, worked with or have got to know have been made redundant or have been asked to work shorter hours. The prognosis is not good.

Roy Greenslade asks if anybody will be willing to save the Press Gazette. But we’ve been here before and the publication has just lurched from one owner to another, struggling to stay alive all the time.

And this is, let’s not forget, a media industry that, for whatever reason, cannot make a magazine about media aimed squarely at them work [1].

The industry will be much the poorer without the Press Gazette, especially as it seems their online offering won’t actually offer any proper journalism after the start of May (which kind of defeats the point in keeping it going). Hopefully somebody will give it the proper send off, the celebration of its life that it deserves.

It’s going to be a long hard year for the media, sadly. I still maintain that the cycle will come back round at some point (whenever that may be) and the industry will pick up.

But quite what the industry will look like at that stage is anybody’s guess. That the business model has to change is beyond doubt, but if anybody had a clue on how best to change it, it would have happened long before now.

Ouch.

[1] Although this is a slightly simplistic way of looking at it and the various owners can be said to play at part in this.

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Charlie Beckett: Reinvention the the key to the survival of the industry

Excellent piece from Charlie Beckett in the Press Gazette on what journalists should do to survive in a web-centric world:

“Not all this new-media stuff works. There is a limit to both the amount and the quality of what the public will provide. There is a danger that journalists will spend more time repackaging material for different platforms than creating content.

It is time to bring the “online team” or the “digital director” in from an office down the corridor and in to the middle of the newsroom. Everything from your email system to your Facebook site needs to be reconfigured.

Packaging and style will become less important than delivery, originality and interaction. Some people may regret that. I don’t. Some “classic” journalism will survive because a knowledgeable specialist will always have an audience. But the successful journalist of the future will be networked. This means becoming multiskilled. It means being able to connect lots of different content with a variety of customers.”

All good points and timely and relevant. Every journalist should at least be ware of these new web-centric newsgathering and publishing techniques and take time to at least look into what these techniques can do for them.

Journalism is changing. PR is changing. The media is changing. There are teenagers who’re starting to think about a career in journalism who will have grown up with the web. These are the readers and journalists of the future and will already be geared up to properly use the web, both as consumers and producers. The question is, are the current crop of media professionals ready for this challenge?

Journalists: also attempting to kill all first-born children

Nick Davies is one a one-man war against the journalism industry at the moment. His Guardian column today, not to mention serialisations in the Press Gazette and Private Eye have a few nasty home truths, although I’m not entirely sure the journalistic utopia Davies harks back to ever existed, or even how much is willful deception and how much is lack of time [1].

The real hook appears to be in the final couple of paragraphs from today’s column:

“…the Cardiff researchers found one other key statistic that helps to explain why this has happened. For each of the 20 years from 1985, they dug out figures for the editorial staffing levels of all the Fleet Street publications and compared them with the amount of space they were filling. They discovered that the average Fleet Street journalist now is filling three times as much space as he or she was in 1985. In other words, as a crude average, they have only one-third of the time that they used to have to do their jobs. Generally, they don’t find their own stories, or check their content, because they simply don’t have the time.”

That partly tallies with my own experience and that of others I know within the industry. Somedays that well-written press release relevant to your patch is just too good to pass up. Other days, if you want to take time getting one story as good as it possibly can be, the rest of them tend to be a little bit more rushed. Journalists are, after all, only human.[2]

I’ve also been involved in stories where I’ve had pretty intimate first-hand knowledge of both the subject and breaking news story. It’s in this case that often things fall down as the hunger for a fresh angle takes over. However, in defence of journalism, if you’ve got a complex breaking story, it’s never easy, especially if you’re going into an area cold.

In this respect, I’ve got a lot more time for Martin Bell’s argument against salaciousness, which has also appeared on CiF today. I was always taught, if the story’s strong enough, you don’t need to embellish it [3].
So yes, there is definitely an argument that journalism has suffered due to staffing cutbacks, time constraints, and a 24-hour news culture. But any journalist worth their salt, even on the busiest desk, should be able to pick up their own stories, once they get to know the patch well enough; they should be able to get most of the basic facts right. Most journalists I know have a fairly high bullshit detector.

There’s a nice quote from the Independent on Sunday’s editor John Mullin on the Press Gazette blog in response to Davies:

“It’s interesting thesis…No one would deny there is a modicum of truth in what he says. Life is harder in journalism than probably it was 20 years ago. But to say journalism as a whole is a passive processor of news is completely wrong.”

I’d broadly go along with that position. Davies is certainly not barking up the wrong tree. He definitely has a point, and if his comments encourage the profession to take a look at itself, that can only be a good thing. Whether or not journalists actively distort the news is another thing altogether. From my own experience, and I appreciate this is limited because it doesn’t include nationals, I’d say not. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

[1] And, unless I’ve read this wrong, he also doesn’t seem to count news agencies (such as pa and Reuters) as real journalists, which does them as massive disservice.

[2] As a quick aside here, this also shows the value of good and sensible PR. If the PR is done well, journalists shouldn’t have to be questioning the basics. If you’ve got an efficient, understanding, quick, helpful PR with a good nose for news, then it makes sense the journalist will return to them. Plus, keeping good contacts with the PR industry is useful for a journalist – you never know when you might need them. There’s still a perception that anything to do with public relations is a bad thing, and ‘the enemy’, when it really isn’t by any means.

[3] Although, again it’s a very idealistic vision here. As one early commenter on Bell’s piece points out, salaciousness and celebrity sells. But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, necessarily mean news pitches itself into a race to the bottom. Often journalism acquits itself pretty well.


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