Saturday, 15 May 2010

The future is now

I spend a lot of the time bemoaning the state of our industry. It may seem like I like to do it, but I truly don't.
What thrills me about this job is getting stories and bringing out newspapers. Newspapers, especially local ones, are truly important things for so many people and this current spiralling descent into extinction really hurts me.
I feel genuine sorrow for the new fresh faced recruits joining papers now. Working so hard to snag one of the few jobs on newspapers only to see them become a shadow of their former selves.
In five years time I dread to imagine what ridiculous pamphlet will be masquerading as a newspaper after more and more inevitable cuts.
It's easy to moan but what can we do?
Firstly we need to maintain our product's quality. If no-one is reading your paper there is not much defence in keeping it going. I know it's a struggle to remain motivated to do your job when it's obvious those above you have given up, but it is even more important to bring out the best paper you can.
Next is to fight every attempt to cut jobs, drop editorial pages and cut distribution.
It can often feel like there is no point and it's inevitable but the harder we make it for our MD to shave another couple of pages out of paper, knock a couple of thousand off our paper round or sell more ads on our premium pages the less likely he will want to do it.
Same for jobs. If he/she knows there will be an almighty row from the whole newsdesk over losing another reporter/sub the spineless twat is more likely to look to shed jobs in other departments first.
Embrace the web. It's not a replacement to newspapers, it's an added string to our journalistic bows. They still can't find out a way to make the same revenue out of their websites as they do our core products and I can't see that changing any time soon. But by treating the web as a part of your job as a journalist you not only increase your own skills base but you will start attracting new audiences who hopefully will start to look at your papers as well.
Bring in money ideas. By telling your ad team about a new shop/restaurant opening in town you might actually start creating revenue. You will get told things that may be great advertising opportunities which would go unnoticed by the ad sales peeps. The more money coming in, the better chance of keeping your jobs.
Keep the pressure on. If you are getting reaction from readers about changes at your paper, whether it be reduction in distribution, editorial or an obvious lack of news due to staff shortages get those people to complain all the way up the ladder.
Why not give discretely point them in the direction of your MDs phone number/email address. Let the ivory tower wankers soak up some of our shit for a while. They live such sheltered lives I doubt they have met an angry or disenchanted reader of their products for quite some time. Could be a nice thing to get them reacquainted with the green crayon brigade and see how easy their lives are after that.
Get out of the office. Meet some people, show that you care about the patch you cover. Re-engage with the readers so that hopefully they start to feel a bit of loyalty about their local paper again.
Get angry. You should be pissed off about what your companies are doing and how they are being run. Be furious about it. We are great at pointing out when other workers get shafted by their own employers but we are remarkably shy when it comes to defending our own jobs.
You want protection join a union. Work together to stop the bosses making these often ludicrous decisions that will ultimately send this business to the wall.
Things are changing in this industry and we cannot ignore the fact but our core job of reporting remains fundamentally the same. We just have a whole load of new ways of doing it.
Newspapers are still profitable. In some cases hugely so. But we are being bled dry by companies that have to see year-on year growth and are not satisfied by stable profits.
If the market is not there they make false profits by cutting pages, slashing staff and not putting out the same numbers of papers. Suicide by a thousand cuts.
If only our bosses realised if they actually listened to their people who love this job and harnessed a tiny part of the massive passion we have for newspapers, they might just have a chance of survival.
Role on the truly independent press, I say.

4 comments:

  1. spineless news editors also bring local papers down. as long as they can sit there filling the pages with any shit that comes along and have an easy life, all is good. wankers. their reporters sometimes get tired of being angry because they know nothing is ever going to change.

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  2. All good, practical points raised by Blunt - but they don't work in my world!

    Joined the union - hasn't made any notable difference apart from costing me money.

    Worked as hard as possible to produce a quality paper - thing is though the team just ain't big enough, and a glaring shortage of subs means the occasional schoolboy error is now an inevitability.

    Protested furiously to the editor about numerous job cuts, especially concerning one particular former colleague who had more weight in the eyes of the readers than the rest of the 'team' combined - might as well have shouted at the fucking wall.

    Gone out as often as workload allows to engage readers - feels like it's too late though, the paper's reputation isn't great amongst the community because public perception is that we're a rag lacking sufficient news and sport pages and only worth reading for the classifieds. That will never change without more editorial staff, simple as.

    Brought in plenty of money ideas - aside from the fact that repping is quite a transient profession and that many of the reps who owed me more than a few favours are long gone, I'd be amazed if those currently at this paper even mentioned that editorial weighs in with money making ideas/tip offs etc on a regular basis; hardly the reciprocal type now, are they?!?

    As the above anon commentator said, I'm tired of being angry because nothing is ever going to change - at least, not by my hand. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I love writing and I love nailing a good scoop. If/when the day ever comes that I wake up and find I don't, I'll quit that instant cos I sure as hell ain't in this business for the money; and don't know anyone else who is either.

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  3. Oi,Blunt. Are you still alive

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