Friday 17 July 2009

How 'fortress journalism' is crumbling

The BBC College of Journalism has released a document called the Future of Journalism, a collection of papers discussing the changes to news in a digital age from a BBC media conference that took place late last year. (The Future of Journalism [359Kb PDF]).
In The End of Fortress Journalism, BBC World Service director Peter Horrocks has written about how journalists are having to reassess how they work.
He says on the BBC Editors' Blog: "Most journalists have grown up with a fortress mindset. They have lived and worked in proud institutions with thick walls. Their daily knightly task has been simple: to battle journalists from other fortresses.
"But the fortresses are crumbling and courtly jousts with fellow journalists are no longer impressing the crowds. The end of fortress journalism is deeply unsettling for us and requires a profound change in the mindset and culture of journalism.
"Fortress journalism has been wonderful. Powerful, long-established institutions provided the perfect base for strong journalism. The major news organisations could nurture skills, underwrite risk and afford expensive journalism. The competition with other news organisations inspired great journalism and if the journalist got into trouble - legally, physically or with the authorities - the news organisation would protect and support. It has been familiar and comfortable for the journalist. But that world is rapidly being eroded.
"The themes are familiar. Economic pressures - whether in the public or private sectors - are making the costs of the fortresses unsustainable. Each week brings news of redundancies and closures. The legacy costs of buildings, printing presses, studios and all the other structural supports of the fortress are proving too costly for the revenues that can now be generated.
If this all sounds a bit grim I can make no apology, but I do think - and mention in the paper - that there are some reasons for optimism."


Rich Simcox said...

This is certainly interesting, and who could argue that the media industry is undergoing a period of change.

But must we always here about inevitable decline? I just don't buy this 'there's no money in journalism anymore' line.

Jon, you'll have the figures to hand, but my old parent company Gannett posted its quarterly profits yesterday didn't it? Looked alright to me.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful imagery! In the US, we've been struggling to encapsulate exactly what's going on with our journalism. The notion of formalized rules of conduct breaking down for the profession seems to comport with what we're experiencing. One thing that we're working on here at the University of Missouri is to innovate around some of the major problems associated with the changes currently going on in journalism. Here's an example of what we're doing: