Monday, 5 January 2009

'A major regional owner will go under in 2009 and more journalists will lose jobs' - Greenslade

MediaGuardian commentator Roy Greenslade admits today that he has long been the "harbinger of doom" and that is certainly the way many in the newspaper business see him.
But, whatever his critics say, Roy's pessimism about print has been proved right. The end of 2008 was as miserable a time for print journalists as I can remember. So it would be foolish to ignore his predictions for 2009 and they don't make happy reading. For instance:"If you thought 2008 was bad for the newspaper industry, this year will undoubtedly be worse".
He says: "At least one major regional owner will go under. Even if there is no further consolidation, there will be 'accommodations' between rival publishers. More, many more, local titles will be closed or merged. More freesheets will vanish. Needless to say, more journalists will lose their jobs. As for the national newspaper industry, it is probable that a couple of publishers will throw in the towel. I somehow doubt that their titles will vanish altogether, but that must be a possibility too."
On new media, Roy argues that necessary online innovation is being stifled. "There is a lack of genuine inventiveness about how to forge a new form of journalism, because companies are too focused on dealing with commerce. Many regional and local paper websites are so clunky that they cannot hope to gain new audiences, let alone retain the current ones.
"Staff required to 'service' print and web on a 24-hour basis are not given the time and space to experiment and there is precious little encouragement from managers who are interested only in bottom lines."
I am sure that will strike a chord with the greatly reduced editorial staff on regional papers, where it is estimated around 500 jobs were lost in the last half of 2008, who are expected to feed the web as well as fill their newspapers with copy.
Also, Roy's predictions about the decline of newspapers is not a recent phenomenon. When editor of the Daily Mirror ( from 1990-91) he incurred the wrath of the then proprietor Robert Maxwell by, in an interview with Press Gazette's Jean Morgan, correctly predicting the decline of the mass market for the UK's "popular press".

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