Friday, 3 April 2009

Newspapers: A keypin in democracy

Please read this piece on what newspapers mean to the essential democratic structure of civil society. And silence your guffaws when you go on to read about the treatment of weekly journalists by the Guardian's own group.


  1. Well Paddy, both articles are very interesting reading and I can relate to the Long Eaton Advertiser and some of the concerns it has rasied.

    The Star (daily) newspaper in South Yorkshire in the last five years has gone through similar issues and problems. Back then the paper was printed three times a day (early, mid-afternoon and late evening editions) and there was also four types of Star newspaper published as well (Sheffield Star, Rotherham Star, Barnsley Star and Doncaster Star)

    Then they did away with printing the early and late editions of the paper (never gave a reason) so there would be just one copy of the newspaper per day and then sadly the local area papers disappeared (The Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley Star newspapers were all condensed into one paper simply named The Star)

    You now notice when you pick up the newspaper that its much thiner than it used to be. There seems to be less adverts and less stories as a result. Cruically though its interesting that people in Sheffield reading the paper, moan that there are too many stories concerning Barnsley and other places in South Yorkshire, rather than Sheffield itself.

    I cannot believe for the size of a city like Sheffield, that it cannot have its own edition of a newspaper. If it could then Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster, being much smaller places should then have their own newspaper and it could be retitled 'The South Yorkshire Star'?

    Anyway my point is that basically Long Eaton, South Yorkshire and many other places are experiencing the same problems. I agree with Stephen Moss's report that there could certain consumers not being catered for, for news. As mentioned not everyone has Internet access and some people will never take news from the web, they'll always want it from a paper. So the big danger is that towns that lose their own newspapers in the future, how will people be able to keep up with the news?

    Sheffield produces now a newsletter every 3 months, telling the residents about things happening in the city and about events etc. It has proved popular, but people have suggested that this is still not alterative to a local newspaper.

    I still stand by what I have said in my dissertation and in my blogs that newspapers will definately be a lot different by the time I reach middle age. By then newspapers will probably be unrecognisable.

    Its sad that the Internet in a way has taken over and that people rely on it so much for so many uses in their everyday lives, but I guess we always needed to move on. Thanks to the Internet I can now get up to date live pictures on my laptop from the BBC News Channel if I need latest news, but would I really go to my local newspaper for the latest news? Probably not and I just hope people aren't like me when it comes to getting local news. BBC local websites probably great local content and in Liverpool I would never think of going to the Liverpool Echo's front page for stories, unless someone told me to for a reason?

    Newspaper are cruical to small communities and certain people and I think it will be sad to go and wander round small towns in the next ten years to find that there is no longer a daily or even weekly newspaper.

    Sad, sad times for the newspaper industry.

    Quickly on the second article I think if Guardian Media are closing local newspapers just because they want to keep The Guardian ticking over then this is an outrage!

    I mean apart from a few good sections a Monday, the Guardian to me isn't a great newspaper. I don't waste 90p a day buying the dam thing and to be honest I do use the website, particularly for Media related stories, but not for breaking news. So to hear that local, regional 'rags' are being forgone because of The Guardian makes my blood boil in truth.

    There will always be a need for journalists and proper news stories, however it could be that I am writing for a computer audience, rather than a paper audience in the future (dam I already am!)


  2. Good points Tim, but most newspaper groups are still highly profitable but cash poor thanks largely to broken centralised business models. They have carried too much debt incurred borrowing to fund mergers and acquisitions for too long. As credit has dried up, plunging share prices have wreaked massive havoc. Also, people still read sufficient numbers of papers to make them viable, it's just established journalism just doesn't know to reach the smaller, more often culturally diffuse readerships the internet provides. Readers aren't abandoning reading, they are just going elsewhere - how do we reach them?

  3. This is the question Paddy that I don't think people can answer as yet, but everything will be become clearer in time I guess.

    Yes people might still be buying newspaper in their millions, but I argue how many hits are news pages getting online? Probably a lot more.

    The fact that Internet websites that provide news, provide the content for free, so why would someone buy a newspaper if they have access to the web?

    These are some of the main issues that need to be looked at if newspapers are to survive in this climate. I just think we have to be realistic and because of the net and economic reasons, some newspapers will fold or will simply be web based only in the future?


  4. Fundamentally its still easier to read a newspaper in many situations - public transport, on the loo. And also, buying a newspaper doesn't rely on broadband connections, which many, many people still don't have. And also, a newspaper is still a much more rewarding, tactile experience. It guides you through, there is a cohesiveness to the experience that you don't get with net and the attendant need to toggle browsers etc.

  5. Also, newspapers can still be watchdog or a check and balance in society - as David Simon creator of the Wire says: "You don't see many internet writers in courthouses or schoolboard meetings" The net is still a good place for reflection but there's not much broken there that doesn't come from an established print source.

  6. I agree that newspapers are still good to read in many situations, but I just think that people around my age group and below generally find newspapers boring, uninteresting and something their parents 'might read'.

    People grow up with computers and the Internet nowadays and therefore understand they can now get information and details on news, instantly from a number of websites.

    I personally like newspapers, but having spoken to many people about newspapers in my age bracket, most would not buy a newspaper, unless there was some incentive to buy it (like a particular giveaway of something or if it contained a feature on a particular celebrity, football club etc).

    Newspapers will have to change and adapt to meet not only the older generations needs, but the needs of a new generation in order to survive in the new digital age.

    The number of people in the country that don't have broadband in the country is falling every year. While not everyone might have Internet access in 10 years in their homes, they will still be able to get internet access in a number of important places in and around towns and cities (cafes, libraries even some trains in the future!). Laptop computers will be cheaper, so therefore more people will have them and wi-fi access will expected by consumers in busy places. Also mobile technology will help people view online websites quickly and easily, they won't even need a computer.

    So newspapers will need to address these advances in technology and avaliability of the Internet to people, in order to compete properly.

    How they will do this, I'm unsure.

    Tim Soule

  7. Tim,
    Working with students younger than you I have consistently asked about some of the betes noirs of this generation e.g. newspapers are boring - get them into the now enlarged content of many papers, particularly Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday products and they more often than not find something worth their 90 or so pence.
    In this case newspaper futures become a marketing issue, we have to get out and show just how much more specific, tactile and active an activity newspaper/ magazine reading is compared to the passive click through that the net, more often than not, delivers.
    Don't get me wrong, I love reading online the newspapers I can't buy and I like the aggregation of content blogsites offer - check out Slugger O'Toole and Newshound on this site. Also the younger generation often says the 'difficulty' of, in particular, quality papers stops them reading them. When we actually read them, students often realise the ingrained fear or prejudice against the quality paper are just that. There's nothing difficult about them.
    On one of your points, my parents may read newspapers, but they also read classic novels and watch great TV and movies - that doesn't stop me doing the same.
    On the broadband issue, you might get up and walk to the library - but ain't it easier to have paper delivered?
    I know I'm preaching to the converted with you, but this is both a message and technology issue.
    a) Do what the French are doing and offer subscriptions to the press paid for government and integrate news into the national curriculum.
    b) Force newspapers to actually innovate. Why?
    Because newspapers are often a key ingredient in social and community cohesion - working on local newspapers shows you this in broad technicolour.