Monday 14 December 2009

Remember 2000 when your job was safe?

I've done an article for the latest issue of Press Gazette looking back at the year 2000 which involved trawling through a year's worth of back copies of the magazine.
The most striking thing was the lack of bad news. There is nothing like the scale of redundancies being suffered by journalists in 2009.
I put “redundancy” into the search box on and these are some of the stories that came up over the past couple of months: “100 more jobs to go at the Guardian”; “Trinity to cut 17 more jobs on Merseyside”; “Associated plans closure of London Lite”; “Jobs fears as 130 year old Contract Journal shuts”; “Trinity to axe 15 staff as it closes two more papers in Wales”; “Express Newspapers plan to lay off 70 more journalists”; “Up to 30 staff at risk as Metro confirms regional redundancies”; and “33 jobs at risk as Channel 4 slashes news output”
There is nothing equivalent to this being reported in 2000. It seems that the price of the current economic crisis in the media industry is being paid in journalists' jobs.
In 2000 the good times were really rolling for big regional newspaper companies like Johnston Press.
In March 2000, Press Gazette reported that Johnston Press had announced pre-tax profits of £49.8 million, up 8.6 per cent on the previous year. Operating margins in publishing were up from 27 per cent to 29 per cent.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the survival of so many national newspapers. Back then pundits were predicting that there was no way so many could continue - but they have, even though some are running up huge losses.
It seems that people still want to own national titles for the prestige and the way they continue to set the news agenda - for example the Telegraph's MPs' expenses scoop and the recent row sparked by the Sun's publication of Gordon Brown's letter to a grieving mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan - but they have to have very deep pockets.
Press Gazette is available on subscription only.