Friday 27 February 2009

Johnston chairman predicts 'huge reduction' in local newspaper journalists by 2014

Johnston Press chairman Roger Parry makes three predictions in an article on about the future of the local press by 2014. All make grim reading.
They are: total local advertising income will be less than it is today; many local daily titles will have been converted into weeklies; and the number of journalists and sales people will be down 50 per cent.
In the article he enthusiastically embraces citizen journalists, and controversially claims: "Journalists are often busy doing things the audience no longer want. The traditional professional output is no longer valued by readers. Much, but not all, of local news gathering, feature production and photography are better done by enthusiastic amateurs for next to nothing. Want a critique of local rubbish collection policies? Ask a local resident for 500 words. It matters to them and they are more connected than a journalist sent over in a taxi.
"Want passionate reporting of local sports? Ask the fans. There will remain a vital role for trained journalists in investigations, analysis and quality control. But it will need fewer of them. They will need new skills of assembling user-generated content including video, digital pictures and audio."
He adds: "As a former NUJ member, predicting a huge reduction in numbers of local journalists gives me no pleasure. These job cuts will not be an attempt to drive up profits. They are an inevitable result of changes in technology, the market and consumer demand."
Parry has been chairman of Johnston Press for eight years and steps down in March.
My prediction is that Parry's comments on much local news being "better done by enthusiastic amateurs for next to nothing" will cause uproar among Johnston Press journalists.


Anonymous said...

Parry's comments show perhaps why so many Johnston papers may be struggling in what is undoubtedly a tough market. He shows absolutely no faith in the abilities of his staff, which obviously makes things a bit easier when it comes to sacking them. Local newspapers are part of the community, the reporters are fans of local sports teams and they have their bins collected by the same bin men. They know what is happening in the community because they live in it – this is not idealism, it is a reality for the vast majority of local newspaper men and women. The difference is that they have the training and the platform for the information they are privileged to obtain to be conveyed to the people most concerned. Local reporters have access to resources that ordinary ‘citizens’ and ‘enthusiastic amateurs’ do not. Those resources, including a salary, allow them to spend time pursuing information that others cannot, as they must earn a wage doing other things. Technology is not an excuse to give up and let communities get on with newsgathering themselves, just as B&Q is not a reason for builders to jack it in and let me build houses.
The internet shows there is more of a demand for news than ever. People are crying out for information that is relevant to them and that is what newspapers have been doing since they started.
Changes must be made, but to suggest that local newspapers will have to make them at the expense of trained and knowledgeable staff in favour of anyone local with a laptop is a mistake and claiming that cutting jobs is not to do with profit margins is hard to swallow.

Jon Slattery said...

Excellent, well-informed comment from someone who obviously knows what they are talking about.
Many thanks.