Click by Click: Is the news of the future becoming a thing of the past?

By Louise Male
Partner

We’ve grown used in the UK to the decline of print newspapers. We hear traditional media has no future in a digital world.

But cuts to the brave new digital world of online news? Now, that doesn’t fit in with narrative. We have been enjoying digital reporting at its best. Entertainment aside investigations. Has it now become just noise in a digital content bubble?

US media firms BuzzFeed, HuffPost and Gannett have shed a thousand jobs this week. Yesterday, BuzzFeed UK followed America’s example in announcing yet more editorial redundancies.

For a while these pioneers of digital journalism looked to have found the Holy Grail to publishing quality, engaging news in a world transformed by technology.

BuzzFeed was the pioneer of ‘listicles’ and original, investigative and often brave journalism. Big names with top billing from traditional news outlets were hired. A new energy fuelled the belief journalism can flourish regardless of channel or cost.

These latest job losses are more than just a blip. They show that providing news for free doesn’t make business sense whether it be in print or online.

As newsrooms go dark the impact on our democratic discourse grows. Whether on a local or on an international level, we depend on journalists to hold those in powerful positions to account.

Johnston Press, owner of the i and The Scotsman and more than 200 titles went into administration in November last year, and was bought by JPI Media.

I’ve seen it happen at first hand in my years at the Yorkshire Evening Post, Daily Mirror and Independent.

In my nine years as a print reporter I saw newspapers act as a mirror and a megaphone for their readers. In regional news those readers were connected with what was happening in their street, their village and their town.

Reporters would investigate their gripes and support their campaigns. Those stories would often make the front page of a national newspaper the following day.

Each and every day, a local news reporter was expected to supply a set of stories which originated on their patch. This produced a steady stream of first hand stories.

In local and national newsrooms the phones never stopped ringing. My colleagues and I saw it as a labour of love. Birthdays, weekends and holidays could wait. The truth mattered more.

As their numbers dwindle, who will give those with a cause, a voice?

Things are moving fast. At a time when the truth matters, let’s not underestimate the role of newsrooms in all shapes and sizes. Their demise is a matter of sadness and more concern.

News should be published for public service not profit.

As readers we should not be mere bystanders. We can support those journalists dedicated to telling the truth by paying for content and taking out subscriptions.

If not, we’ll be left listening to those who rant and rave unregulated on Twitter and Facebook and we may have ourselves to blame.

Newgate Partner Louise Male provides strategic counsel to clients on positioning, crisis communications and media relations.

Previously at Tesco where she was Editor and Speechwriter across external and internal communications and writing for the CEO and senior leadership team. Louise was formerly a journalist for 18 years, working as a television news Producer and News Editor at ITV and as a newspaper reporter for national and regional newspapers including Daily Mirror, the independent and Yorkshire Evening Post.

louise.male@newgatecomms.com

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