Friday, 29 January 2010

Masters of our own demise

Back in the old days journalists used to have a strange device called a contacts book.
In it they would put the names and telephone numbers of interesting local characters, councillors, gossips, cops, lawyers, judges, tattle tales and other ne'er do wells.
The journalist would use another outdated device called a telephone and ring said contacts on a regular basis to get stories to put in the paper.
Some would give you regular stories, others were less forthcoming and normally motivated by petty spite, personal ambition or greed.
We called it basic reporting.
Nowadays we call these people 'community correspondents', we are their 'mentors' and the whole thing has the twee title of 'citizen journalism'. It's all part of the great hyperlocal plan - reporting down your local street.
But shouldn't your 'local' paper already be covering each of the areas.
Oh hang on, didn't all the reporters get fired already?
Is the real reason why Captain Desperate and the rest of his management flunkies are so keen on getting more local coverage because that is what people actually want?
Hire a couple of journalists then you dumb fucks. One journalist will produce more stories per week than your army of drivel-typing curtain twitchers.
Stop trying to get Joe Public to do my reporters' jobs for them on the cheap just so when the next round of lay-offs come they have some copy to stick between the ads.
Thankfully, at the moment, the majority of community correspondents are a complete waste of time.
They sign up write one piece about their holidays, or why they think President Obama is a great/bad President, then never log on again.
Others are prolific but equally irrelevant or worse utterly reckless with no regard for defamation laws or balance. A handful, a rare, rare breed, actually do come up with one or two stories every six months.
Back in my day these last guys would already be in my contacts book rung on a regular basis and filleted for their information. But maybe that's just me.
Is someone a citizen journalist if they come in with the splash one week but are never seen again? Or is that the internet equivalent of a ring in?
I have no qualms with Mr Smith posting his results of the Tiddlywinks Championships or the Railyway Model enthusiasts telling us about their AGM. Good luck to them and the six other people interested in it.
But creating people who may be able to replace me come the next revolution is utter madness.
I will no doubt get some flak from my forward thinking internet buddies, but while you are training up the next wave of 'citizen journalists' to do your job for free spare a thought for all the hacks already laid off last year and hope 'citizen journalism' doesn't take your job in 2010.


  1. I think you're spot on.

    The sooner the industry wakes up and realises only journalists - not some noo meedja tosspot with a flip cam - can do the job of a journalist, the sooner we can start getting some news back in newspapers.

  2. Unfortunately hiring a couple of journalists looks like spending money.

    Not so much when they start writing stories, which makes people want to buy the paper, meaning businesses buy advertising in the newly successful paper.

    But in the bean counting office, it definitley looks like spending money.

  3. The old days are over. The journalism seems to be over. The media industry is still alive but it s just industry, cheap talk-show.
    Citizen journalism is the new fashion. Everybody can be a journalist or used tell-quell. Who cares? It s for free...

  4. I'd like to see a civvie hack churn out a stack of ad features every fucking week...

  5. Ah yes... the contacts book. Back in the Ashes to Ashes days we also had a large general office contacts book policed by the news ed (remember them?). Of course individual competing reporters zealously guarded their 'special' contacts and even the editor would have difficulty prising out details of them.
    But that A4 general contacts book had a special section at the end of A to Z. Being gloriously politically incorrect, it was called 'Loonies, Bores and Other Assorted Nutters'.
    Here we would list the worst of the green ink brigade, single agenda psychos, obsessed conspiracy theorists and the rest. You know, those people who regularly turn up at reception (when we had offices and receptionists) or phone unsuspecting trainee reporters and invite them round into the trap.
    None of this would be allowed these days, probably under both the Data Protection and Human Rights acts.
    Now all these charmers can be Citizen Journalists. Wonderful!

  6. Remember though, they may be your contacts but they may not be your property!!!
    Be careful where you store them.